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PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND 
BELIEF 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL 
AND BELIEF 

AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ESSAY 

BY 

E. O. JAMES, B.Litt., F.G.S. 

EXETER COLLEGE, OXFORD ; RECTOR OF ALVESCOT ; FELLOW OF THE ROYAL 
ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

R. R. MARETT, M.A., D.Sc. 

READER IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD 



METHUEN & GO. LTD. 

36 ESSEX STREET W.G. 

LONDON 



First Published in 1917 



TO 
MY WIFE 



THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE 

THE study of anthropology in general, and of 
comparative religion in particular, is one which 
appeals nowadays to a very large section of 
the educated public. In the light of modern knowledge 
many old preconceived notions regarding the early his- 
tory of mankind have to be abandoned, and some of 
the ancient beliefs have to be re-stated in a manner in 
which the modern mind can accept them. The spirit 
of inquiry is abroad, and nowhere more than in the field 
of religion. Furthermore, it is to the question of origins 
that the minds of many turn at this time, and, therefore 
anthropology, which may be described as the " science 
of human origins," occupies no inconspicuous place in 
the modern renaissance. How did religion originate ? 
Is it the result of Divine revelation, or is it the product 
of evolution ? Has God really revealed Himself " by 
divers portions and in divers manners " in times past, 
and in these latter days spoken to us by His Son ? Are 
the pre-Christian religions an age-long prayer, to which 
the Incarnation is the answer, or is Christianity merely 
the highest because the latest development in a long 
line of human thought and aspiration ? All these 
questions are legitimate and right, both from the scien- 
tific and from the Christian point of view. Inquiry in 
the sense of specialized research that aims at truth for 
truth's sake is the method by which the scientist estab- 
lishes his hypotheses, and the Christian is likewise ex- 

vii 



viii PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

horted to " prove all things." Was it not for the very 
purpose of leading the faithful inquirer into all truth 
that the Paraclete was sent into the world ? 

In the following pages the subject to be investigated 
is that of primitive ritual and belief as practised by 
the aborigines of Australia — the lowest culture extant 
— and by other primitive people. Although the main 
thesis is purely anthropological in character, yet it is 
hoped that the work may be of interest to the theologian 
as well as to the anthropologist, since an attempt will 
be made to discover the permanent element in and the 
real significance of rudimentary customs. 

It is almost impossible for any writer to preserve an 
absolutely open mind on questions that go to the very 
root of the higher religions, because, as an anthropolo- 
gist of no little repute — and one to whom the author 
owes a debt of gratitude that cannot easily be paid — 
has pointed out, " being men we all find it hard, nay 
impossible, to study man impartially. When we say 
that we are going to play the historian, or the anthro- 
pologist, and to put aside for the time being all considera- 
tions of the moral of the story we seek to unfold, we are 
merely undertaking to be as fair as we can. Willy-nilly, 
however, we are sure to colour our history, to the extent, 
at any rate, of taking a hopeful or gloomy view of man's 
past achievements and his future prospects." 1 Like- 
wise, the antagonist of historical religion is sure to find 
in primitive ritual and belief the starting point of a long 
process of evolution in which Christianity is but an 
evolved form of earlier conceptions, containing vestiges 
of the cults from which it is derived. The apologist, 
on the other hand, is equally certain to regard the lowest 
phase of religion as the germ of a great movement to- 
wards the final revelation of the absolute Truth that, 

1 R. R. Marett, " Anthropology," p. 205. 



THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE ix 

he believes, came by Jesus Christ. The present writer, 
as a priest of the Catholic Church, cannot claim to be 
free from " theological and confessional prejudice," 
but, if he has been guided by a priori considerations, he 
ventures to think that he is only guilty of the same 
error as that committed by many of his opponents. 

The anthropologist pure and simple is merely con- 
cerned with the scientific history of man apart from 
questions of values, progress, the attainment of ends, 
or the purposive interpretation of the facts with which 
he has to deal. Nevertheless, if he is an anthropologist 
he is also a human being, and cannot afford to take a 
wholly external and impartial view of life, lest he forget 
that primitive men had souls and spiritual worth. It is 
therefore perhaps not unpardonable for an anthropolo- 
gist to be a theologian or a philosopher as well, provided 
that he records his facts faithfully and correctly, free 
from colouring to suit his interpretation of them. All 
history, and more especially the history of early man, 
must deal primarily with externals, the true and per- 
manent inwardness of which can best be discovered by 
adhering to the Aristotelian principle that a process of 
development is only understood in view of its outcome. 

Many works have been consulted in the preparation 
of the MS., but perhaps the chief incentive has been 
found in the new light thrown upon primitive ritual 
and belief by the researches of Messrs. Spencer and 
Gillen among the native tribes of Central Australia, 
supplemented by other investigators of the culture of 
this remarkable people. The author desires to express 
his obligation to Dr. Farnell, Rector of Exeter College, 
Oxford, for the valuable suggestions he made in con- 
nexion with the chapter on Sacrifice, to Dr. Jevons of 
Durham and Dr. Buchanan Gray of Oxford, who made 
various criticisms and suggestions after examining the 
subject-matter of the work in the form of a dissertation? 



x PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

to Dr. Selbie of Mansfield College, who revised parts of 
the MS., and especially to Dr. R. R. Marett, Reader 
in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, his 
former tutor, to whose comprehensive knowledge of 
primitive cult he owes so many invaluable clues. The 
dedication expresses yet another debt of gratitude that 
the writer owes to one whose assistance in connexion 
with the MS. and in other ways has been of the utmost 
value. 

E. 0. J. 
Exeter College, Oxford 
September, igiy 



INTRODUCTION 

By R. R. Marett, M.A., D.Sc, 

Reader in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, Author 
of " The Threshold of Religion," etc. 

MY friend and former pupil, the author of this 
book, was already in Holy Orders when he 
engaged at Oxford on a course of advanced 
study such as would lead to the Diploma, together with 
a Research Degree, in Anthropology. His motive in 
so doing, I conceive, was purely theological. In other 
words, he sought to enlarge his outlook as a student and 
minister of Religion by working back to its rudiments. 
Our School of Anthropology has been fortunate in 
attracting not a few whose interests have tended in the 
same direction. Most of these, however, owing to the 
pressure of other intellectual needs, have not been in a 
position to enter very deeply into the subject. Mr. 
James, on the other hand, elected to undergo a full 
anthropological training ; and, speaking as one of his 
teachers, I can but hope that in his capacity of theo- 
logian he suffered no detriment at our hands. 

Is the history of Christianity for theological purposes 
to be cut off as with a knife from the history of non- 
Christian ritual and belief ? If not — and, surely, no 
one can to-day be in favour of a cleavage so radical as 
that — then even the humblest human efforts in the way 
of religious practice and theory will have to be treated as 

xi 



xii PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

relevant after their own fashion. But religion is de- 
fined variously ; and opinions differ accordingly as 
regards the extent to which genuine religion occurs 
amongst mankind. Even anthropologists, who as 
seekers after origins may be expected to incline towards 
the most inclusive of definitions, are by no means 
agreed that Man, so far as he comes within the range of 
scientific observation, is to be set down as everywhere 
and always religious. Yet everywhere and always Man 
is found to perform what he holds to be sacred rites. 
Cult, then, if this peculiar type of human activity may 
be so termed, would seem to be universal. It remains 
an open question, however, whether such cult is to be 
regarded as no less universally equivalent to Religion. 

At this point anthropologist and theologian may well 
be called upon to take counsel together with a view to 
common action. Could they but decide to assign one 
and the same meaning to the term Religion, much 
benefit would result. The lay mind would no longer 
be puzzled by verbal contradictions concerning first 
principles. Moreover, the ancient and unprofitable 
controversy between Religion and Science would be 
mitigated by the removal of a primary cause of mis- 
understanding. The difficulty is hardly met by the 
heroic suggestion that the anthropologist should hence- 
forth desist altogether from the use of the word Religion. 
It is true that he is more directly concerned with facts 
than with values ; and that such a term as cult, having 
wholly academic associations, may be assigned the task 
of designating pure matter of fact, whereas Religion 
both in theological and in popular language implies a 
valuation, an attribution of worth. But Anthropology 
cannot afford to be strictly technical in its vocabulary. 
The simple life needs to be described simply ; and Re- 
ligion stands for a familiar notion, while cult does not. 
Hence a working definition of Religion is needful for 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

the anthropologist no less than for the theologian : and 
for both alike the word must correspond with a thing that 
has value — in other words, is somehow good and real. 

Thus Mr. James attacks a problem of fundamental 
interest and importance when, starting from the Chris- 
tian standpoint, he attempts to estimate the religious 
quality and value of primitive cult. He concentrates 
his attention on a people who, in respect of their material 
culture, belong to the Stone Age. Thus the epithet 
primitive applies to them if to any existing group of 
savages. On the other hand, nowhere among the 
peoples of lowly culture is there more devotion to cult. 
It is a commonplace that the entire life of the Austra- 
lian aborigines hinges on their ceremonies. Indeed, 
so remarkable is the contrast between the multitude of 
their rites and the paucity of their material comforts 
that at first sight one might be tempted to deem such 
absorption in cult abnormal, a sign of uneven develop- 
ment. But further reflexion makes it clear that at 
every stage of human progress, and not least of all while 
the first steps are being taken, morale counts for more 
than machinery. Let the heart of Man be strong, and 
the rest, in the shape of material aids to existence, will 
be added unto him in due course. 

Mr. James, then, as I understand him, tries to show that 
the net result of these primitive rites, and of the beliefs 
that are bound up with them, is to enable these most 
ill-provided and benighted of human pilgrims to advance 
with hope and confidence on life's journey. Their value, 
in short, consists in a power to help and heal by means 
of faith. But, if this be so, how are we to deny to such 
cult the name of Religion ? Be the cry of the savage 
heart never so inarticulate, expressing itself for the most 
part in a kind of gesture-language, yet the underlying 
meaning is one which science, conformably with the 
requirements of a sympathetic study of humanity as a 



xiv PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

whole, must insist on connecting with the far more 
explicit meaning that his own faith and practice have 
for the Christian. 

This must suffice as a very brief statement of the 
way in which, as it seems to me, Mr. James' book is 
likely to prove helpful to the anthropologist and to 
the student of Comparative Religion ; inasmuch as it 
shows the need of a definition of Religion that makes 
it co-extensive with cult, while also throwing light on 
the elements that a definition of such world-wide scope 
has to include. It would not be right to seek here for 
a discussion of various other problems interesting to 
the anthropologist, as, for instance, of the question 
whether Australian culture is simple or compound ; for 
such issues are more or less foreign to the leading pur- 
pose of the inquiry. For the rest, I take it that Mr. 
James wishes to make appeal to the plain man no less 
than to the special student. Every serious person is 
entitled to judge for himself how far Religion, as it mani- 
fests itself variously during the long course of human 
history, is justified by its fruits. I hope, then, that 
the book may have many readers, and believe that one 
and all they will come away from the reading of it with 
a fuller appreciation of those higher possibilities which 
our common human nature enshrines. 

R. R. MARETT 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I A General Survey of Ritual and Belief 



in Primitive Cult 
II Private Rites — Birth 

III Private Rites — Initiation Ceremonies 

IV Private Rites — Marriage. 
V Private Rites — Death 

VI The Food Quest and Totemism 

VII Rain-Making 

VIII The Conduct of War 
IX Sacrifice and Communion 
X Rites Associated with the Consecrated 
Life ...... 

XI Survey of Mythological Lore 
XII The Beginning of Theism 
XIII Conclusion ..... 

Index . . .... 



xv 



i 
7 

21 

48 

7 1 

91 

99 

106 

113 

144 

165 
187 
214 
241 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND 
BELIEF 

, CHAPTER I 

A GENERAL SURVEY OF RITUAL AND 
BELIEF IN PRIMITIVE CULT 

An analysis of the methods of Anthropological investigation — ■ 
The pitfalls of the universalistic form of the Comparative Method 
— The relation of Magic to Religion — The use of the term 
Magico-religious — The reason for choosing the cults of the 
Australian aborigines for intensive study — The place occupied 
by ritual in the life of primitive people — The division of primitive 
ritual into Public and Private Rites — The absence of a Theology 
in savage philosophy. 

IN his epoch-making work " The Golden Bough " — 
a veritable encyclopaedia of anthropological lore — 
Sir James Frazer depicts primitive man, both past 
and present, as being devoted to cruel, hideous, and 
licentious rites : the deluded victim of demoniacal 
and other malignant unseen powers. He is portrayed 
as constantly arming himself with magical weapons 
against demons, ghosts, and spiritual agencies, which are 
liable to attack him at any moment of the day or night, 
but especially when he approaches one of the crises 
of his life, such as initiation, marriage, death, the birth 
and naming of a child ; when he sets out to engage in 
deadly combat with his human foes ; when he goes 
forth to sow his crops or to gather in " the kindly fruits 
of the earth." Against these evils, real and imaginary, 
he defends himself by magical rites, which are not only 
futile but often actually unclean and, in various ways, 
i 



2 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

prejudicial to his true welfare. Even such apparently 
guileless institutions as All Fool's Day and the rites of 
Hierapolis or Elis are connected, in the mind of Frazer, 
with the ritual murder of the aging king, and with 
human sacrifice. 

There may be an element of truth behind this gloomy 
view of primitive society, but it should be remembered 
that Sir James arrives at his conclusions by the uni- 
versalistic form of the comparative method. This same 
scheme of collecting examples, of savage beliefs and 
rites from all parts of the world, and deducing " laws " 
of primitive logic from them, had already been used by 
Sir Edward Tylor with considerable success. But 
the procedure lacks the precision of intensive study, 
and is liable to classify together superficially similar 
but really incommensurable facts, with the result that 
false conclusions are bound to follow. 

Much of this generalizing work aims at establishing 
a distinction between magic and religion, and, in the 
case of Frazer, at making good the assumption of an 
age of pure magic preceding an age of religion. To justify 
this theory he was almost bound to surround primitive 
man with all kinds of malignant spirits to account for 
the rise of protective magical rites in a godless era. 
Thus he has been led into the fundamental error of 
assuming strata in the history of the evolution of magic 
and religion as clearly defined as those exhibited by 
the geological record of the earth. 

(i) In discussing ritual and belief in primitive cult 
the pitfalls resulting from a lack of intensive study 
will be guarded against in this essay by paying special 
attention to the magico-religious cults of the Australian 
aborigines in particular. Resort will be had to the 
universal comparative method only so far as there is 
need to supply examples not to be found in this par- 
ticular region, and to support the general argument. 



A GENERAL SURVEY 3 

Thus, an attempt will be made to avoid both extremes ; 
namely, too narrow and too sweeping a method of in- 
duction. 

(2) In the next place the use of the expression " magico- 
religious " calls for a word of explanation. A detailed 
investigation of primitive cult shows at once how un- 
tenable is Frazer's theory of an age of magic being suc- 
ceeded by an age of religion, in much the same way as 
a stratum of one geological epoch is overlaid by that 
of the following period. To obviate such difficulties 
as would necessarily arise from the adoption of such a 
stratigraphical hypothesis as a working principle, the 
term magico-religious is usually employed by modern 
anthropologists. In " Notes and Queries on Anthro- 
pology," 1912 (p. 251) — the recognized locus classicus 
on terminology — it is stated that " the distinction be- 
tween magic and religion, about which the framers of 
general theory are in dispute, may be ignored for pur- 
poses of particular description," the phrase magico- 
religious sufficing to cover all the facts relating to 
magical, religious, and ambiguous or intermediate rites 
and beliefs. 

(3) Thirdly, the reason for choosing the cults of the 
Australian aborigines for intensive study is because 
these interesting people are apparently the lowest in 
culture, and nearest to the primitive type. Hence they 
constitute the most profitable field of research for those 
who are seeking to discover the most elementary forms 
of culture, ritual and belief. In his native state the 
Australian is unacquainted with the use of metals, 
pottery, and agriculture — in short, of any of the arts 
and industries that are most characteristic of the higher 
culture. His social organization is equally primitive, 
consisting of tribes that are divided into phratries, totem- 
kins, and similar divisions — roaming bands that are 
without more formal rulers than " headmen." Curi- 



4 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

ously enough, the religious conceptions of the Austra- 
lians are relatively so lofty that many have sought to 
explain them as the result of contact with European 
missionaries. But this can hardly be the case, since 
their most advanced religious ideas are intimately 
associated with their ancient and secret ceremonies. 
The magico-religious cults of the Australian aborigines, 
therefore, form a particularly instructive example of 
primitive ritual and belief from which to draw general 
conclusions, such as may be substantiated and verified 
by reference to evidence forthcoming from a wider field 
of observation. Had Professor Huxley studied these 
people more carefully he would not have been led to say : 
" In its simplest condition, such as may be met among 
the Australian savages, theology is a mere belief in the 
existence, powers and dispositions (usually malignant) 
of ghost-like entities who may be propitiated or scared 
away ; but no cult can properly be said to exist. And 
in this stage theology is properly dependent on Ethics." x 
This statement is as contrary to known facts as 
Frazer's dreary picture of primitive man. Mr. Andrew 
Lang is nearer the truth when he maintains that " the 
cult among the Australians is the keeping of certain 
' laws ' expressed in moral teaching, supposed to be in 
conformity with the institutes of their god. Worship 
takes the form, as at Eleusis, of tribal mysteries, ori- 
ginally instituted, as at Eleusis, by the god. The young 
men are initiated with many ceremonies, some of which 
are cruel and farcical, but the initiation includes ethical 
instruction, in conformity with the supposed commands 
of a god who watches over conduct. As among our- 
selves, the ethical ideal, with its theological sanction, 
is probably rather above the moral standard of ordinary 
practice." 2 Such facts, however they be interpreted, 

1 " Science and Hebrew Tradition," p. 346. 

2 " The Making of Religion," p. 177. 



A GENERAL SURVEY 5 

are, on the face of them, enough to contradict the state- 
ment of Professor Huxley. 

No doubt Frazer is correct in saying that primitive 
man is prone to the performance of various rites in 
respect to all the more important crises of his life, and 
that of his family, class, phratry and totem-kin. With 
uncivilized man the magico-religious side of his nature 
is always uppermost. When he is hunting, fighting, 
marrying a wife or giving in marriage, becoming the 
father of a child, going on a journey, sowing his crops, 
reaping his harvest, burying his dead, in fact in all his 
public and private affairs, he is intensely "religious." 
He is always seeking to control the processes of nature 
by magical or religious means. Since the distinction 
between magic and religion merely lies in the notion 
of the controlling force, it will be readily seen how im- 
possible it is to separate stratigraphically these two 
attitudes of mind in primitive man. 

There is another psychological fact that should be 
remembered in opening an inquiry into the nature and 
substance of primitive ritual. The so-called " savage " 
has a very different mental outlook from that of man 
in a higher stage of culture. Much valuable anthro- 
pological work has been spoiled by the observer failing 
to get " at the back of the black man's mind." In the 
first place savages live out rather than think out their 
cult. To them " religion " is not a matter of theory 
but of practice. The primitive mind is incapable of 
grasping abstract thought to any appreciable extent, 
just as it is unable to assimilate complex ideas. It can- 
not separate or analyse out particular elements from 
the whole. Therefore, ritual is more complex than 
belief, and, although to the cultured mind many under- 
lying conceptions would be suggested by a long and 
complicated rite, to the savage it appears as the " out- 
ward and visible sign " of but one inward meaning. 



6 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

To him the rite as a whole is felt to be in some mystic 
way effective in bringing about the desired result. 
And since he views all the agents, elements, and acces- 
sories of the rite as devoid of separate individuality — 
common actors in a sacred drama — fused and inter- 
changing in a manner unintelligible to civilized thought — 
to him the rite becomes but one massive apprehension. 
The chief value, therefore, belongs to the rite itself. All 
the actors and stage properties concerned in the drama 
are subordinate to the meaning and purpose of the 
rite as a whole. 

From the sociological point of view, perhaps the 
most important distinction in primitive ritual is that 
between private and public rites. The former are of an 
individual and sacramental nature, whereas the latter 
refer to the well-being of the community at large. For 
the present purpose this classification may be adopted, 
with the addition of a chapter on the rites associated 
with what may be termed the " consecrated life " — ■ 
the ritual of the professional priest or magician. To 
complete the investigation a subsequent inquiry must 
be made into the beliefs at the back of these practices, 
and the relation of rites to mythology. 

It must again be remembered, however, that in primi- 
tive cult there is no such thing as a theology or thought- 
out scheme of beliefs ; although there may be, and 
apparently is, a permanent underlying psychological 
impulse, traceable from primitive magico-religious cult 
through the higher Theistic systems to the final cause 
of all religious rituals and beliefs — the Incarnation 
of the Divine Logos : constituting the Alpha and 
Omega of all strivings of the human soul towards the 
Divine. In a concluding chapter the nature of this 
permanent element in all religions will be briefly indi- 
cated, so as thereby to connect primitive cult with 
Christian theology. 



CHAPTER II 
PRIVATE RITES : BIRTH 

The mystery and sacredness of childbirth — The Couvade — 
The theory of re- incarnation in Central Australia — The Chur- 
inga rites connected with childbirth — Purification and re- 
generation ceremonies — Rites associated with the placenta and 
umbilical cord — Naming the child — The sacredness of the name 
— The reception into the community of parent and child — 
" The Churching of Women." 

ALTHOUGH the actual act of childbirth does 
not cause women in a primitive state of culture 
severe pain, the advent of a new human being 
into the world is considered a matter of great import- 
ance ; and, in consequence, numerous rites and customs 
surround the occasion. Thus, the mystery of life and 
birth becomes supernatural to primitive man and tabus 
grow up accordingly. No doubt many ceremonies 
originally were simply the result of natural care for 
mother and child, but it was the mysterious nature of 
the processes of reproduction that caused them to be 
viewed with such great reverence and awe, as objects of 
unusual sacredness. From the attainment of puberty 
women are hedged round with innumerable tabus at 
every menstruation, pregnancy and parturition. So 
sacred and therefore so dangerous is she at these times 
that it is sometimes necessary for her husband to sepa- 
rate from her during pregnancy, lest he should come 
under her mystic influence. 
But it must not be supposed that all the tabus im« 

7 



8 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

posed on the parents at the birth of a child refer to 
themselves. Many of them concern the offspring itself, 
as, for example, the couvade — the name given by Tylor 
to the custom of the husband undergoing medical treat- 
ment, and in many cases being put to bed for days. 
The close relationship between man and wife consti- 
tutes a mystic sympathy between them, an idea not 
far removed from the Christian ideal : " They twain 
shall be one flesh." This mystic sympathy extends to 
the child. In matrilineal society couvade is not usually 
found. According to Tylor and Bachofen, the custom 
is the result of the assertion of the father's relation 
to the child. Hence they argue that when patrilineal 
descent was fully established the couvade became un- 
necessary, and was therefore dropped. Be this as it may, 
it is apparently among people in the transitional state 
— the maternal-paternal stage as Tylor terms it — ■ 
that the most abundant examples are to be found. 

In South America and the West Indies couvade is 
practised with a clear notion of what it means. The 
women are free to talk with whom they will, but the 
husband dare not converse with his wife's relatives. 1 
The Indians of California ; the Zuccheli of West Africa ; 
the Bouro in the eastern Archipelago ; the Mian-tsze, 
mountain tribes on the Chinese frontier ; and the 
Dravidians of Southern India, are a few cases instanced 
by Dr Tylor. None of these, however, are in the purely 
maternal stage. But Mr. Ling Roth has shown that 
couvade is practised by the Arawaks and Melanesians, 
among whom matrilineal descent is established. 

The alternative explanation suggested by Tylor, that 
the magical-sympathetic nature of a large class of 
couvade rites implies a physical bond between parent 
and child, covers more facts than the former suggestion, 
but it can hardly be said to account for all instances 
1 Tylor, " Early History of Mankind," p. 293. 



PRIVATE RITES: BIRTH 9 

known to anthropologists. There is, however, reason 
to believe with Mr. A. E. Crawley that the couvade is 
also a means by which the father desires to protect 
his wife as well as his child. 1 

In central Australia every child is regarded as the re- 
incarnation of an ancestor, the spirit-being definitely 
associated with a special totemic group. Sometimes, 
as in the Arunta, Kaitish and Unmatjera tribes, these 
totemic ancestors were many ; sometimes only few, as 
in the Urabunna. In every case, however, the spirit 
is supposed deliberately to enter the body of the mother. 
In the Kaitish tribe a man will take a Churinga and 
carry it to a spot at which there is a special stone called 
kwerka-punga (child stone), which he rubs with the 
Churinga, asking the kttrinah, or spirit of the child, to 
go straight into the woman. Among the Arunta there 
exists the same belief in stones inhabited by children 
who can be made to enter a woman, but in this tribe 
the Churinga is not used as a part of the rite. 2 Mr. 
Baldwin Spencer thinks that the belief in spirit children 
who enter women was once universal, as it exists in 
tribes now so widely different. The Kakadu believe 
that there was once one great ancestor, Imberombera, 
who was responsible for peopling the country. There 
were also local spirit centres as in the Arunta. 3 

Childbirth among savages is not a long or painful 
process. When a child is about to be born in the Kait- 
ish tribe, the parents of the woman leave the camp for 
two days and the husband for three days, the latter 
taking care to remove his waist-girdle and arm-bands 
lest he should impede the birth. On his return the 

1 " Mystic Rose," p. 428. 

2 Spencer and Gillen, " Northern Tribes of Central Australia," 
p. 606. 

3 Spencer and Gillen, " Native Tribes of Northern Australia," 
P. 23. 



io PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

father touches the new-born child with a small brush, 
warms a spear-thrower over the fire, and passes it back- 
wards and forwards over the child's body, after which 
he paints a circle of black round the eyes and the navel. 
This done he hands the child back to the woman, tell- 
ing her to go and show it again to her father and mother. 
If there is any difficulty at parturition, her elder sister 
brings the nania (maternal grandmother) who encamps 
close by and sings until the child is born. In the Arunta, 
the father's girdle is wound round the mother's waist 
in cases of difficulty. 

Among the Warramunga tribes the rites are more 
detailed. The woman is attended by male and female 
relatives, who are under a ban of silence till some time 
after the birth. When the child is about a week old, 
the mother, accompanied by her father's mother, carries 
it to the father's camp. The man thereupon gives the 
male attendants presents of weapons, and the mother 
releases them from the ban of silence. 

Infanticide is practised in cases where another child 
is being suckled at the time, or in order that a weaker 
child may imbibe its strength. Twins are destroyed as 
uncanny. In such cases the soul of the infant is be- 
lieved to return to the Alcheringa to be soon reincar- 
nated. 1 

Childbirth takes place in seclusion because of the con- 
dition of tabu imposed on the parturient. Thus, the 
Rev. W. Ridley, in his " Report on Australian Languages 
and Traditions," says: "Women are strictly secluded 
at the time of childbirth and for six weeks afterwards. 
An old gin is appointed to attend the mother in her 
confinement. At the end of the time of seclusion, this 
old gin burns every vessel that has been used by the 
secluded woman ; and in some parts of the country 
also burns off part of her hair. During the monthly 
1 " Northern Tribes," p. 608. 



PRIVATE RITES : BIRTH n 

illness the woman is not allowed to touch anything that 
men use or even to walk on a path that man frequents, 
on pain of death." * Among the tribes of New South 
Wales it is said that the spot to which the woman with- 
draws is fixed by the chiefs. 2 In some places, as, for 
instance, in New Zealand and Japan, a special hut is 
provided for women under tabu, whither the parturient 
retires to be delivered. 3 A survival of this practice still 
prevails among the peasants of Russia, who to this day 
give birth in a barn. 4 Where the woman remains in 
her husband's shelter, as in the west of Victoria, the 
man is forced to leave, and the neighbouring shelters 
are promptly deserted, except for two married women 
who stay to act as midwives. 5 

The absence of the husband at birth is by no means 
a universal custom. The Yaroinga of Queensland allow 
the man to be present, 6 while in the Andaman Islands 
he is expected to render active assistance. In the 
latter connexion Mr. E. H. Man says : " When about 
to be confined, the custom is for the husband, and some 
of the woman's female friends, to attend on her ; she 
is placed in a sitting posture, the left leg is stretched 
out, and the right knee brought up, so as to enable her 
to clasp it with her arms. Her husband supports her 
back and presses her as desired, while her female friends 
hold a leaf screen, ka-baja-luga, over the lower part of 
her person, and assist her to the best of their ability 
in the delivery, and in the removal of the after-birth 
the umbilical cord is severed by means of a Cyrena 
shell (now a steel blade is often used), and when the 

1 " J. A. I.," ii., p. 268. 

2 Matthews, " Ethnological Notes," p. 15. 

3 Ashton, "Shinto," p. 113. 

4 " L' Anthropologic, " xiv., pp. 7, 8. 

5 Dawson, " Australian Aborigines," p. 38. 

6 Roth, "Ethnological Studies," p. 182. 



12 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

infant has been washed in cold water its skin is gently 
scraped with a shell." J Likewise in the birth rites of 
the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico — the Sia tribe — the 
husband is present but apparently does not take any 
part in the proceedings. The woman, in this case, is 
surrounded by a doctress, the husband, and her father. 
In the description of the rites given by Mrs. Stevenson 
in the " American Bureau of Ethnology," the husband is 
portrayed as sitting on a blanket against the wall 
throughout the proceedings. 2 It is possible that the 
absence of the husband is a survival from matrilineal 
society, where the father would be of little or no impor- 
tance. The presence of the wife's mother at delivery 
lends support to this view. As tabus grew up round 
the pregnant woman the separation of husband and 
wife at parturition became a necessity. 

The child, like the parents, is unclean, and therefore 
some form of regeneration is necessary to remove this 
original taint. The mother and child among the Kora- 
gars of West India are ceremonially unclean for five 
days, when both are restored to purity by a tepid bath. 
Thus Walhouse states that " on the occasion of a birth 
(among the Koragars) the mother becomes unclean and 
the hut is deserted by the other inmates for five days ; 
on the sixth day the mother and child are restored to 
purity by a tepid bath, and the child is named. Rice 
and vegetables are presented to the mother, and several 
cocoa-nuts, split in two, the under half being given to 
the mother, and the upper to the master, if the child be 
male, contrariwise if female." 3 

Lustrations of the woman and her offspring are prac- 
tised among the American Indians, Hottentots, and 
Negroes. There is a certain suggestion of likeness be- 
tween the rites in this connexion among the North 

1 " J. A. I.," xii., 86. 2 Vol. xi., p. 132. 

3 " J. A. I.,"iv., p. 375. 



PRIVATE RITES: BIRTH 13 

American Indians and those of the Levitical Law, but 
obviously the two " uses " are quite distinct. The 
Hottentots considered mother and child unclean till 
they had been washed and smeared after the native 
fashion. Lustrations with water were usual in West 
Africa. The Mantras of the Malay Peninsula have 
made the bathing of the mother after childbirth into a 
ceremonial ordinance. It is so among the indigenes of 
India, where both in the northern and in the southern 
districts the naming of the child comes into connexion 
with the purification of the mother, both ceremonies 
being performed on the same day. 1 Among many 
South African tribes (Giacas, Gealekas, Tembus, Pondos, 
etc.) the mother is secluded for a month after childbirth, 
during which time women sprinkle her daily with a 
decoction of herbs and repeat hymns. Water and fire 
are used among the Jakun tribe in the Malay Peninsula, 
the child being passed over fire. 2 In Java the head of 
a child is shaved forty days after birth. These exam- 
ples show that the child's first washing was originally 
a religious rite. 

Dr. Farnell, in the " Evolution of Religion" (p. 157), 
mentions an interesting form of lustration among the 
Aztecs. The midwife washed the infant with the prayer, 
" May this water purify and whiten thy heart : may it 
wash away all that is evil. ' ' The lustration speedily took 
definite form in the Mediterranean religions and passed 
from the idea of washing away of defilement and sin 
to that of spiritual new birth. In the Isis rites the 
baptism with water was thought to raise the mortal to 
the divinity. Thus the way was prepared for the pro- 
clamation of the " one baptism for the remission of 
sins." 

The removal of the evil influences to which parent 

1 " Primitive Culture," ii., p. 432. 
2 " Journal of Indian Archaeology," ii., p. 264. 



14 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

and child are exposed is done not only by purificatory 
rites but by magical ceremonies, sacrifices, and so on. The 
person is sometimes placed in the fire, or fumigated 
with smoke or incense ; or the tabu may be wiped off 
with the hands (which must be immediately washed), 
or with a scraper, at once destroyed. Before and after 
birth the pregnant woman safeguards herself and her 
offspring by ceremonies, amulets and fasts. Amulets 
are hung on the person of mother or child, on the cradle 
or bed. These consist of parts of animals, plants, 
stones, girdles, salt, anything, in fact, which may impede 
the entrance of evil spirits, or assist in the delivery and 
well-being of mother and child. Should the mother 
die in childbirth savages usually bury the child with 
her, lest she should not rest without it. 

Great importance is attached to the placenta and 
umbilical cord, and numerous rites surround the dis- 
posal of these. In Australia the navel cord is usually 
allowed to fall off, and is then wrapped up in fur-string 
and tied round the neck of the child to keep it quiet. In 
the Warramunga tribe it is given to the wife's brother, 
who wears it as an armlet for some time and then 
places it in a hollow tree known to none but himself. 
In the Binbinga tribe the navel string is cut off with a 
stone knife, and, with the after-birth, placed in a hole 
in the ground. 1 Among the northern tribes the um- 
bilical cord is dried and worn round the neck for five 
years, and then thrown into a pool of water. Were it 
not preserved it is supposed the child would die, since 
it is thought to contain its spirit. If the child dies while 
the mother is still wearing the Worli, death is attributed 
to her having broken one of the Kumali rules, such as 
eating forbidden food or washing in deep water ; there- 
fore the spirit is gone from it. 2 

1 " Northern Tribes," pp. 607, 608. 
2 " Native Tribes of Northern Australia, p. 325. 



PRIVATE RITES: BIRTH 15 

The Queensland natives hold that part of the cho-i 
(vital principle or soul) of the child remains in the 
placenta, and is therefore buried in the sand and a num- 
ber of twigs are stuck in the ground to mark the spot. 
Anjea — the High God who makes babies out of mud 
and inserts them in the mother's womb — notes the spot, 
takes out the cho-i and carries it to one of his haunts. 
There he keeps it till wanted for another child. 1 If a 
child is born dead it is supposed by the Australians to 
be due to Numereji (the snake) who has caused the 
spirit to go back to its old camping ground. The 
Javanese believe that the souls of their forefathers are 
housed in crocodiles. The women take the placenta sur- 
rounded with fruits, flowers, and lamps to the river, 
and offer it as a dedicatory gift to the souls of their 
forefathers in the crocodiles. 2 

Crude and grotesque as these rites appear to the cul- 
tured mind, they clearly show that in the most primitive 
society there is the belief that from birth man is more 
than a material being — he has a spirit independent of 
his body. 

Ceremonies connected with naming the child may 
occur at birth or puberty, when the lad is initiated into 
the totem-clan or tribal mystery. Among the Zunis, 
naming and initiation take place any time after four 
years of age. Except for the absence of water, the rite 
resembles Christian baptism. A sponsor breathes on a 
wand which he extends towards the child's mouth as he 
receives his name, and the boy must personally take 
the vows as soon as he is old enough. With the Africans 
of the Congo River it was customary to lay upon the 
new-born babe a series of " vows " touching his con- 
duct in life. These were impressed upon the mother 
as a sacred duty to bring up her child to learn what a 

1 Roth, " Bulletin of North Queensland," p. 68. 

2 Kruyt, " Animisme in den Ind. Archip.," pp. 25, 189. 



16 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

" solemn vow, promise, and profession " he had made by 
her. Mr. E. H. Man shows how among the Andamanese 
" certain mythic legends are related to the young 
by oho-pai-ad parents and others, which refer to the 
supposed adventures or history of remote ancestors, 
and, though the recital not unfrequently evokes much 
mirth, they are none the less accepted as veracious." 1 
This account apparently refers to post-" baptismal " 
instruction. 

Since the name is considered as part of the personality 
the rites connected therewith are usually religio-social. 
Among the Arunta, Kaitish, and Unmatjera tribes 
every individual has two names besides those referring 
to this totem. The first is the personal name, which is 
most frequently used ; the second is the secret or sacred 
name, which is associated with his Churinga-nanja. If 
the individual is thought to be a reincarnation of an 
ancestor he bears his name, or, if this is unknown, a 
name decided upon by the headmen. This secret name 
is associated with the Churinga. In addition to these 
names a man has a " status term " — a name that indi- 
cates his stage of initiation. Up to the time he is 
thrown up into the air he is called Ambaquerka. Hence- 
forth, till he is taken to the circumcision ground, he is 
named Ulpmerka. Between going to the ground and 
the actual circumcision he is called Wurtju. From 
that time to subincision he is Arakurta. From circum- 
cision to his admission to the Engwura ceremony the 
lad is named Ertwg-kurka. During the ceremony he 
is called Ilpongwurra, and after passing through it 
Urliara. Women have only three status names. Up to 
her attaining puberty a girl is Ambaquerka. From 
puberty till she is fully grown she is called Wunpa, and 
after that Arakutja. 

Thus, each man has his personal name ; his secret 
1 " J. A. I .," xii. p. 163. 



PRIVATE RITES: BIRTH 17 

or Churinga name ; sometimes a nickname ; the term 
indicating the relationship in which he stands to the 
person speaking to him — his status name, often a term 
of address connected with the initiation ceremony ; his 
class or sub-class name (Panunga, Purula, etc.), and 
his totemic name. 1 

Among the Urabunna each man has two names : one 
given to him as a child, the other at initiation. The 
Warramunga system is similar to the Arunta, but since 
they have not the same extensive number of Alcheringa 
ancestors, they have few Alcheringa names to fall back 
on. The sacred name is therefore given to him by his 
paternal grandfather, and may be that of the spot at 
which the individual was left in spirit in the Wingara, 
or that of some subsequent ancestor. The sacred name 
is only given to a fully initiated man in this tribe, whereas 
in the Arunta it is given at a very early age. Further- 
more, there is no secrecy about it in the former as in the 
latter. The coastal tribes have a single name. To sum 
up the evidence put forth by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen 
on this subject it appears : 

(1) In the Arunta, Kaitish, Unmatjera tribes there 
is (a) an ordinary name in common use, and (b) a sacred 
name known only to the members of the totemic group, 
and supposed to have originated with an Alcheringa 
ancestor. 

(2) In the Warramunga group of tribes there is (a) 
an ordinary name ; (b) a sacred name of post- Alcheringa 
origin, and known only to the initiated. 

(3) In the coastal tribes there is a single name which 
is that of the grandfather or grandmother. This is the 
equivalent of the sacred name in the Arunta. 

The ceremony of naming the child among the Kakadu 
tribe is simple. When it can walk the natives assemble 
in their camp, into which a bundle of spears has been 
1 " Native Tribes " pp. 218, 249, 638. 



18 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

brought and laid on the ground. The parents sit at 
one end of the spears, the natives in a semicircle at 
the other. A male relative leads the child by the hand 
from among the people to the parents. The father 
then names his offspring, and the spears are presented 
to the father. x There is apparently no secret name given 
in this tribe. 

The reason why such importance is attached to the 
personal name in primitive cult is because it is regarded 
as the ego of the individual. The Eskimos, for instance, 
say that man consists of body, soul and name, of which 
the last is alone immortal. The object, then, in having 
a secret name, or changing the original name at initia- 
tion, was that an enemy might not injure the person 
through his name. For this reason the Dyaks change 
their names after sickness. 2 The names of the dead 
were, likewise, never pronounced by many tribes in 
Australia, Tasmania, Polynesia, Africa, and America, 
lest perchance they should disturb his rest and, in con- 
sequence, bring vengeance on themselves. 

Because of the sacredness of the name the custom 
grew up of concealing the name of the deity. Thus, 
among the south-east tribes of Australia the name of 
the All-Father Dararnulun was never revealed to women 
or boys before initiation, 3 and Njambe, the High God 
of the Marutse in Africa, is called Molemo, for the same 
reason that Mohammedans have substituted Allah for 
the original Divine name. Although it is not generally 
known, the most successful attempt at concealment of 
a sacred name is in the case of Yahweh. So com- 
pletely did the Jews realize the significance of the 
Fourth Commandment that the Name which Christians 
hallow is now totally lost ! 

1 " Native Tribes of Northern Australia," p. 339. 

2 Lingi; Roth, " Natives of Sarawak," vol. i., p. 288. 

3 Howitt, " J, A. I.," xii., p. 192. 



PRIVATE RITES: BIRTH 19 

The reception into the community and the presenta- 
tion to the deity are usually two aspects of the same 
ceremony. Thus, among the Chukchi, on the eighth 
day after birth mother and child are drawn in a sledge 
round the tent to the place of sacrifice. The reindeer 
that draws them is then sacrificed, and the mother and 
child, together with some of the family, are painted 
with blood. The name of a deceased relative is then 
given to the child. 1 A blood brotherhood exists between 
parent and child and kin, as well as with the divinity. 
In South-west Africa mother and child are purified 
by sprinkling with water, and the child is presented 
to ancestral spirits, and then received into the clan. 
Among the Kayans and Kenyahs of Borneo naming 
is the beginning of the child's social life. 2 

It has been shown that parents become tabu through 
birth. Ceremonial desacralization is therefore often 
necessary before they are readmitted to the community. 
The Arunta, where the mother resumes her ordinary 
life without further ceremonies, form an exception. 
In some tribes in New South Wales a part of the woman's 
hair is burnt off before her return after childbirth, as a 
purification rite. 3 Among higher savages the rites 
are more complex. Thus the Hopi mother is forbidden 
to see the sun for five days after giving birth. Various 
bathings are required, till, on the twentieth day, she 
takes a vapour bath, and the house and child are 
thoroughly purified, and the latter is presented to the 
sun. A feast ensues, after which the mother is restored 
to the community. 4 Similar instances have been noted 
in other connexions in this chapter. 

The idea of tabu survives in Europe in the custom 

1 " Jesup Expedition," vii., p. 511. 

2 Furness, " Borneo Head-Hunters, " p. 18. 

3 " J. A. I.,"iii., p. 268. 

4 " Journal of American Ethnology and Archaeology," ii., p. 165. 



20 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of a woman remaining indoors after childbirth till she 
is " churched." The Office of the Churching of Women 
in the Anglican communion is not, however, a survival 
of primitive tabu, for, as Hooker shows (quoting from 
Archbishop Whitgift), the proper title of this service is 
' ' The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth. ' ' ' ' The 
absence of the woman after her delivery is neither ban- 
ishment or excommunication, but a withdrawing of the 
party from the church by reason of that infirmity and 
danger that God hath laid upon womankind in punish- 
ment of the first sin, which danger she knoweth not 
whether she shall escape or no : and therefore after 
she hath not only escaped it but also brought a child 
into the world, to the increase of God's people, and 
after such time as the comeliness of nature may bear 
she cometh first into the church to give thanks for the 
same, and for the deliverance by Christ from that sin, 
whereof that infirmity is a perpetual testimony. And 
this being done not Jewishly but Christianly, not of 
custom but to give thanks to God for deliverance from 
so manifold perils, what Christian heart can for the 
name's sake thus disallow it." x 

1 " Ecclesiastical Polity," bk. v., p. 399. 



CHAPTER III 
PRIVATE RITES : INITIATION 

Classification of Initiation rites in Australia — Dr. Howitt's de- 
scription of the ceremonies in South-East Australia — The Bunan 
— The figure of Daramulun — Knocking out of the tooth — Instruc- 
tion of the boys — Ceremonies at the grave — Invocation to 
Daramulun — The mystic dance — Final ceremonies and cloth- 
ing of the boys — Rites among the Central tribes — Throwing up 
of the boys — Preliminary ceremonies on the ceremonial ground — 
The operation of Circumcision — Subincision — The boy now 
Ertwa-kurka — The anainthalilima ceremony — The Engwura — 
The totemic ceremonies — The examination of Churinga — Fire 
ordeals — The throwing up of fire-sticks over the women ; the 
lying down of the Illpongwurra at night ; the carrying of Chur- 
inga to the women's camp — Roasting and painting the Illpong- 
wurra — The initiation of girls — The Atna-ariltha-kuma opera- 
tion — The origin and purpose of the rites — The growth of Secret 
Societies — The evolution of the conception of a Catholic Church 
— Circumcision, theories regarding the origin and significance 
thereof — A sacrifice — A preparation for marriage — Reincar- 
nation — Initiation. 

MOST people in the lower stages of culture 
compel their young men and boys to pass 
through initiation ceremonies ; indeed, some- 
times through a long series of them, extending from 
the age of eight or ten years to the time when the person 
is reckoned among the old men of the tribe. Usually, 
however, they are terminated at the age of twenty. 
In every tribe in Australia there are certain ceremonies 
through which all the youths must pass before they 
are admitted to the ranks of men, or are allowed 

21 



22 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

to take part in any of the sacred mysteries. Three 
classes of ceremonies have been distinguished : (i) The 
eastern and extreme western, characterized by knocking 
out teeth and similar milder tests of endurance. (2) A 
narrow area on the inside of these two regions, where 
circumcision prevails. (3) The central tribes west of a 
line drawn from Adelaide to south of the Gulf of Car- 
pentaria (except in a small district near Adelaide) where 
circumcision is only a preliminary to a severer operation. 
The knocking out of teeth is also practised here, but 
apparently it is done without significance. To do 
justice to the subject a separate treatise would have to 
be devoted entirely to the initiation rites. Here, there- 
fore, it will be impossible to attempt more than a sum- 
mary of the most representative ceremonies in various 
parts of Australia. 

Among the south-east coastal tribes the charac- 
teristic ceremony is the knocking out of one or more 
of the upper incisor teeth. Messrs Spencer and Gillen 
conclude from the fact that the central tribes often also 
perform this ceremony that it was the older form of 
initiation common to the ancestors of the central, 
eastern, and south-east tribes, and that in course of 
time it was, for some reason, superseded, in the case of 
the central tribes, by the ceremonies now in vogue. 1 
When once the latter became established, then the 
older ceremony lost all sacred significance, and became 
practised indiscriminately by men and women alike. 
This view is supported by the fact that while the cere- 
mony in vogue in the eastern and south-east coastal 
tribes survives in the central region, no trace of the 
elaborate ceremonies characteristic of the central and 
western area are to be found amongst the coastal tribes. 

Dr. Howitt deals fully with the initiation rites of the 
south-east tribes, being himself instrumental in procur- 
1 " Northern Tribes," p. 329. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 23 

ing the performance of the Banan in the south-east of 
New South Wales. 

The ground, he says, 1 was first prepared, and a cir- 
cular embankment was made in the centre of the 
clearing. At a distance of 400 to 500 yards from the 
mound a lesser place was also cleared, and was so 
selected that saplings could be arched over, and thus 
make an enclosure, with only one opening facing the 
larger Bunan. The ceremonies began by a recently 
initiated youth pretending to be a snake and leading a 
procession of the men, each having a bough in either 
hand, round the camps, warning the women that the 
ceremony is to be held. After dances and songs the 
men went to the lesser Bunan, where they were shown 
figures representing Daramulun, Junnung-ga-batch 
(spiny ant-eater) and Murumbul (brown snake). This 
was repeated with each contingent and extended over 
several weeks. When all had arrived a fire was made 
in the great Bunan, and the boys, accompanied by 
their Kabos (brothers of the girls who belong to the 
tribe from which his future wife must be taken), were 
painted, and a woman's digging stick placed between 
the boy's feet, on which hung a bag containing a man's 
full ceremonial dress (the cord of twisted opossum-fur 
which forms his belt ; kilt ; forehead band ; and the 
pointed bone worn through the septum of the nose). 
The boys were then placed comfortably near the fire, 
and the ceremonies, consisting of dances and perform- 
ances, began. The cardinal sins were represented in 
burlesque, and ironically recommended to the boy. 
At the end of every lewd suggestion the speaker added, 
" Yah," which negatived all that had been said and 
done, and gave to the whole of the proceeding a car- 
nival aspect. 
The preparation of a life-sized figure of Daramulun 
1 " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," pp. 519, 677. 



24 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

followed, cut in relief on a great stringy-bark tree. 
This being is the High God who is thought to preside 
over the ceremonies. Presently a man, covered with 
charcoal as the representative of Daramulun, emerged 
from the bushes, dancing and bearing in one hand a 
piece of wood about eight inches long, and chisel-shaped 
at the end. He seized the boy by his hands and applied 
his lower incisor to the left upper incisor of the boy, 
and forcibly pressed it upwards. He then, dancing all 
the time, placed the chisel on the tooth, striking a blow 
with his mallet. This time the tooth was loosened, 
and blood could be seen. After several more blows 
the tooth fell out of its socket and was given to one of 
the old men. No sign of pain was manifest, according 
to Howitt, except the quivering of the boy's legs, save 
in one case when thirteen blows were necessary to 
remove the tooth. In this latter case the boy's yell 
was drowned by shouts from the men. 

The boys then received instruction as to the office 
and work of Daramulun — that he lived beyond the 
sky, watched over the tribe, and took care of men at 
death ; in fact, that he was the omnipotent tribal law- 
giver and sustainer. Standing by the fire they were 
invested with the man's belt. A long cord of opossum- 
fur string, folded a number of times, was wound round 
the waist and fastened by the end being tucked under 
the folds. This belt is coloured with red ochre. In 
front hangs the narrow kilt (burrain), thrust up under 
it so as to hang down and preserve decency, being 
fastened to the belt by the two outside thongs, which 
are tucked once or twice under and round the belt. A 
burrain also hangs down behind. The novices were 
now told that they were no longer boys, and must 
attend carefully to all their kabos or guardians told 
them. 

Moral teaching and dances followed as before. The 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 25 

next day a figure of Daramulun was dug in the ground 
and dances and instructions as to his nature alternated. 
A grave was then prepared with digging sticks into 
which a man was placed with his hands crossed, holding 
the stem of a young Geebung tree, and his head sup- 
ported with a rolled-up blanket. A light covering of 
dead sticks filled the grave, and on them were scattered 
dead leaves and grass, small plants and such like, to 
make the illusion complete. The novices were placed 
alongside the grave, and a dirge-like song was com- 
menced. To the slow, plaintive, but well-marked air 
of this song the actors began to move forward. Winding 
among the trees, logs, and rocks, they proceeded to the 
grave chanting an invocation to Daramulun. As they 
came near to the grave they wound round its foot and 
ranged themselves at the side facing the novices and 
the kabos. Then there was seen a slight quivering of 
the Geebung tree, and the kabos directed the attention 
of the novices to it, saying, " Look there." It quivered 
more, was then violently agitated, then the whole 
structure fell to pieces, and the supposed dead man rose 
up and danced his mystic dance in the grave, showing 
the Joias (magical quartz fragments) in his mouth, 
which he is supposed to have received from Daramulun 
himself. The grave, into which the trappings of the 
actors had been thrown, was then filled up with rubbish. 
The proceedings closed with lustrations to remove 
ceremonial markings on the bodies of those who had 
taken part in the rites. The novices were led away 
ahead of the party, being now " completed " and made 
ngai so as to " please Daramulun. ' ' They were forbidden 
during their probation to wash themselves, or to go 
into water, especially if running, lest the influence with 
which the ceremonies have filled them should be washed 
off. After the young men had been painted with yellow 
ochre and again arrayed in their recently acquired 



26 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

men's clothing, the party set out for the new camp, 
previously prepared by the women. Holding boughs 
high up so as to conceal the newly-made young men in 
a moving forest, they all walked slowly to the camp, 
in front of which was constructed the semblance, made 
of boughs, of a double hut large enough to hold about a 
dozen people. At the farther opening and inside stood 
four women, the three brothers of the boys and the 
sister of one of the former, each having a band of white 
clay across her face as a sign of mourning. The oldest 
woman carefully scrutinized the young men, and lightly 
struck one of them on the back with two boomerangs, 
whereupon the men shouted to the youths to run. A 
stampede followed. The novices were then sent to the 
bush for a period of probation, during which time they 
received their individual totem names. The teeth are 
usually preserved and passed on to the Headman, from 
group to group of the inter-marrying community, to 
inform them that its owner has been made a man. 
Finally, it returns to the man from whom it was ex- 
tracted. Great care has to be taken of this " danger- 
ous " article, lest evil magic should be worked through 
it by an enemy. Dr. Howitt relates how a native trav- 
elled 250 miles to recover a tooth, then in his possession, 
as he feared that its owner's illness was due to the tooth 
having been placed in a bag with Joias. 

The ceremonies vary in different tribes. Daramulun 
s represented by a pole at Port Stephens ; among the 
Kamilaroi Baiame takes his place ; elsewhere Daramu- 
lun appears as his son. The Jibauk and Kurnai tribes 
do not practise the knocking out of teeth. In these 
tribes the ceremonies are greatly simplified. In the 
former the boys are isolated, are daubed with mud, and 
have their hair cut. They receive no special instruction 
in tribal laws. Among the latter the novices are just 
" put to sleep," and all conversation subsequently 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 27 

prohibited. The next morning they are awakened as 
men, and attired accordingly. They are then shown 
the bull-roarer and given some frogs. The ceremonies 
conclude with the " water ceremony," in which the 
initiated youths splash their mothers, who squirt water 
over them in return. As in the former case, the boys 
then retire to the bush for purposes of abstinence and 
isolation. 

The initiation rites of the central tribes have been 
adequately described by Spencer and Gillen. 1 For 
the present purpose it must suffice to consider the cere- 
monies witnessed by them at a spot called Undiara — ■ 
an important centre of the Kangaroo totem situated 
near the Fiske River. Unless one is an initiated mem- 
ber of Australian society it is impossible to learn the 
jealously guarded tribal secrets. The native is as 
secretive as the Freemason. It is therefore most neces- 
sary, in the interests of truth, to confine the search for 
information on these obscure and secretive rites to those 
authorities who, like Spencer, Gillen and Howitt, are in a 
position to give an accurate description of what takes 
place from personal observation and knowledge. 

The first initiation ceremony among the Arunta, 
Ilpirra and Unmatjera tribes is performed when a boy 
is between ten and twelve years of age. It consists in 
the lad being taken to a central spot near to the main 
camp and there thrown up into the air and caught in 
the arms of the men, while the women dance round 
and shout. He is then painted on the chest and back 
with red ochre. Henceforth he is forbidden to go to 
the women's camp or play with the children. One 
night he is seized by his elder brother, wife's brother, and 
father's sister's son, and taken to the ceremonial ground, 
where all the men and women are assembled. At the 

1 " Native Tribes," pp. 212-386. " Northern Tribes," pp. 
328-392. 



28 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

particular ceremony at which Spencer and Gillen were 
present, the women opened the proceedings with a 
dance, after which the boy's hair was tied up and a 
human hair-girdle wound round the waist. He was 
then covered up and told to see nothing unless he was 
requested to watch. (Among the Unmatjera the boy is 
informed that should he reveal any of the tribal secrets 
Twanyirika will carry him away.) His mother then 
gave him a fire-stick and he retired, with his elder 
brother, to the bush. On his return he was brought 
to the ceremonial ground, and there learnt for the first 
time the secrets of the totems, and the history of his 
totemic ancestors. He saw the ceremonies performed, 
in which the ancestors of the tribe were represented 
as they were and acting as they did during life. A 
Waninga, or sacred pole, is used in the sacred cere- 
monies among the Arunta, but not in the Unmatjera 
tribe, or other northern tribes. The object represents 
the body of the totem animal. 1 

The actual operation of circumcision was conducted 
amid great excitement. The brakes, used as shelters 
by the Wurtja and his attendants, were set on fire, 
and bull-roarers continually sounded. The women and 
children think that this noise is the voice of Twanyirika, 
who comes to take the boy away to the bush till he is 
better, whence he returns as an initiated man. The 
Wurtja was then placed on a shield, while the Lartna 
song was thundered out by the men and the operation 
performed. Among the Unmatjera the operator is the 
boy's father-in-law (ikuntera) ; in the Arunta he is the 
assistant. As soon as it was over the youth was con- 
gratulated and presented by his elder brother with a 
Churinga belonging to his father, to assist him to 
recover. Should he lose his life, that of his mother 
would be in danger. He was also admonished to care- 
1 Native Tribes," p. 251. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 29 

fully avoid the track of a lubra while he is in the bush, 
lest the spirit of the louse, which lives in the lubra's 
hair, should go on to him, and his head get full of lice. 
Failing this a worse fate might overtake him. The 
lubra would perceive that he was following her up and 
tell his brother to kill him. The foreskin is disposed 
of in various ways. Among the Unmatjera it is pre- 
served by the ikuntera for some time and then he gives 
it to the boy, and a man who is gammona (mother's 
brother) to the boy comes up and ties it round the 
latter' s waist. The youth then secretly puts it in a 
hollow tree. 1 There is, however, no relationship sup- 
posed to exist between the boy and the tree. 

While he was in the bush recovering from the Lartna 
operation he had to undergo the painful rite called 
Koperta kakuma, or head-biting. The lad was placed, 
lying face downwards, while men of all classes sat round 
singing of the ceremony. Two were chosen to bite the 
scalp until blood flowed freely. The object of the 
operation was to make the hair grow strongly. 

When the boy was sufficiently recovered, the opera- 
tion of Ariltha (subincision) was performed. During 
the previous night the men sat round fires at a safe 
distance from the women, and performed and explained 
to the boy the totemic ceremonies. Just before dawn — 
the youth having ere this retired with his guardians — 
the father prepared a ceremony, using a sacred pole. 
The boy was then led by the arm to the pole by his 
elder brother, who told him that it was his own father's 
Nurtunga, that it had made many young men, and that 
he must catch plenty of kangaroo and wallaby for his 
father. There are slight differences here as elsewhere 
among the various central tribes. Among the Unmat- 
jera, for instance, after embracing it, he is placed on 

1 In former times, according to tradition, the Alcheringa 
ancestosr placed their foreskins in their Nanja trees. 



30 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

the back of his umbirna man (brother of his future wife), 
who lies on the mirtunja. In the case in point — the 
Arunta — he was laid on a Tapunga, formed by two men 
lying on top of one another, thus making a living table. 
One man sat astride his body while others held his legs 
lest he should struggle. With a stone knife the opera- 
tion was performed by an ikuntera of the boy. He 
was then raised to his feet a fully initiated man ; the 
pubic tassels were tied on, and the youth told that he 
was now Ertwa-ktirka, and that he had no more opera- 
tions to fear because he was now admitted to the ranks 
of the men. He carried a Churinga about with him 
till he was completely recovered. When his recovery 
was announced all the decorations were removed from 
his body, and he was laid down on his face while the 
men sang a chant which is supposed to promote the 
growth of hair. 

On his return to the main camp his blood and tribal 
elder sisters rubbed their hands and faces on his shoul- 
ders and cut off the locks of his hair, which they after- 
wards use to make up into hair ornaments. This cere- 
mony is called anainthalilima. The ban of silence, as 
far as the officials are concerned, is not removed for 
some months, although the Ertwa-kurka is now free to 
go into their presence. 

The next day he was again conducted to the women. 
He threw a boomerang in the direction of the spot at 
which his mother was supposed to have lived in the 
Alcheringa, as a sign that he is passing away from her 
control. He was then placed on a fire which had been 
prepared by the women, and which is now covered with 
leaves. The women placed their hands on his shoulders 
and gently pressed him down. After a short time he 
was taken off by the Irkoa-artlu, — -the name given to 
the individual who takes charge of the newly initiated 
during his visits to the women's camp after subin- 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 31 

cision — and handed on to a few uninitiated boys. After 
three days' silence, and after he had made an offering 
of game (chaurilia) to the officials, he became a per- 
manent member of the camp. The ban of silence was 
removed by touching his lips with the nurlunja, or some 
other sacred object. 

Although the Ertwa-kurka was now regarded as an 
initiated member of the tribe and allowed to take part 
in the sacred mysteries, yet he had a long series of 
ceremonies, known as Engwura, to pass through before 
he became Urliara, or a fully-developed man. This 
rite consisted in the performance of ceremonies con- 
nected with the totems, and terminating in an ordeal of 
fire, the whole having the effect, so the native imagines, 
of strengthening those who pass through it. It imparts 
courage, and wisdom, and makes men Ertwa-murra 
oknirra (man, good, very). The ceremonies extend 
over many months. 

First of all messengers were sent out to assemble the 
tribe at a given point, carrying with them several 
wooden Churinga concealed by emu feathers, which 
they showed to the Alatiinja as an emblem of their 
" bona fides." The Engwura ground was so prepared 
that the women and children in the main camp could 
not see what is taking place. When the local groups 
had arrived, some travelling a distance of 200 miles, 
the proceedings began, each group performing its own 
totemic ceremonies. After two days the leader of the 
Engwura made a mound called a Parra, which was 
ornamented with gum tree boughs. No satisfactory 
explanation was given of this act. The nurtunja and 
the dancers were decorated with down and a sacred 
ceremony ensued which referred to the wanderings of 
two Alcheringa women. When this was over the ex- 
amination of the Churinga by the Alatunja took place. 
Singing, dancing, and ceremonies by decorated persons 



32 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

continued, having reference to various totemic pecu- 
liarities. At the end of the second phase of the Eng- 
wura, the young men were decorated by the old men, 
and the former became Illpongwurra. 

A similar series of ceremonies took place in the third 
phase. There was further examination of Churinga., 
and the handing of them over to the lizard man. The 
ceremonies had reference to obsolete marriage customs 
and to cannibalism, which is seldom now practised by 
the Arunta. These performances show the changes 
that have come over the tribe since the days of the 
Alcheringa, and have the effect of preserving tradition 
from generation to generation. 

The fire ordeals began in the fourth phase. At sun- 
rise the Illpongwurra were collected together close to 
the Parra. Amid the screech of the bull-roarers they 
were driven away from the camp to hunt game in the 
bush for the old men, who stayed in the camp perform- 
ing ceremonies. On their return the Illpongwurra 
were showered by the women with burning grass and 
boughs that had been previously dried. They shielded 
themselves as best they could with the bushes they 
carried. The same night a hole was dug just big enough 
to hold a man's body, and a ceremony imitating the 
baking of a man in the earth oven was performed. The 
next morning at daybreak the Illpongwurra were again 
driven forth, the fire throwing by the women was 
repeated, and more ceremonies ensued. This order of 
procedure continued till the last fire-throwing ceremony 
was performed by the women, and the Kaiiaua, or sacred 
pole, was erected. Then followed the invasion of the 
women's camp by the Illpongwurra, each armed with 
a fire-stick which he threw over the heads of the women 
and children, amid a scene of shouting, screaming and 
general confusion. This done the men returned to the 
Engwura ground and lay at the Parra, while the leader 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 33 

of the ceremonies for eight hours continually lifted up 
and down the Ambilyerikirra — the sacred object con- 
sisting of two large wooden Churinga, bound together 
with human hair-string, and surrounded with rings of 
white down, the top being ornamented with tufts of 
owl feathers. Early the next morning the party, 
headed by three men bearing the Ambilyerikirra, and 
accompanied by a few of the older men, slowly and 
silently approached the women's camp. When within 
five yards of the front rank of the women, the men who 
carried the Ambilyerikirra threw themselves headlong 
on the ground, hiding the sacred object from view. The 
Illpongwurra threw themselves on the top. After 
several minutes they arose and returned to the Engwura 
ground. 

There are thus three leading incidents in this part of 
the rite : the first, the throwing up of fire-sticks over 
the women ; the second, the lying down of the Illpong- 
wurra at night while the Ambilyerikirra, incessantly 
rising and falling, is held upright before them. The 
third is the carrying across of the sacred Churinga to 
the women's camp. 

The only explanation the natives can give of this 
is that rushing across to the women's camp represents 
an attack by a party of the wild cat men, who are Ill- 
pongwurra and not yet made Urliara, upon another 
party, and that the lying down quietly in front of the 
Ambilyerikirra represents the " taming " of the wild 
Illpongwurra under the influence of the sacred Churinga. 
The third phase they do not attempt to explain. Messrs. 
Spencer and Gillen think the whole ceremony may be 
commemorative of a reformatory movement which 
must at one time have taken place in the tribe in regard 
to cannibalism. This view is perhaps supported by 
the fact that the natives suppose that a man who has 
passed through the Engwura is more kindly natured- 

3 



34 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

It is also significant that the wild Illpongwurra who rush 
with fire-sticks to attack the women should be represented 
as Achilpa men who have been made into Urliara. The 
falling down in front of the women in the third incident 
may be an outward sign of a change in their fierce 
nature. 

On their return to the Engwura ground from the 
women's camp, the Illpongwurra were again sent out 
into the bush with instructions to remain away for two 
days. In the meantime the Kauaua was ornamented 
with eagle-hawk feathers, head-bands, tail tips, nose- 
bone and a few Churinga. There is only one form of 
Kauaua, and this is common to all totems. The natives 
have no idea of its origin or meaning, but it may be 
concluded from the decoration that it has some relation 
to a human being and possibly to a spirit individual 
associated with a tree. Since it is a sacred object com- 
mon to all totems, it may be regarded as emblematic of 
some great ancestor or High God connected with 
the origin of the various totems. If this is so, it 
would lend support to the growing opinion among 
anthropologists that the Arunta, like the rest of the 
tribes of Australia, had an ancient All-Father belief. 1 

The Kauaua erected, the Illpongwurra had to submit 
themselves a second time to an ordeal by fire. A fire 
was made in the bush and the young men were placed 
at full length on the smoking boughs for several minutes. 
After resting for a while to recover from the effects of 
this ordeal, they returned to the camp and witnessed 
the last of the ceremonies prior to the final fire cere- 
mony. Early the next morning the young men were 
painted with totemic bands irrespective of their own 

1 There is gradation of sacred objects among the Arunta. 
The Churinga represents the individual, the Nuihmga the totemic 
group, and the Kauaua all the totems or the All-Father from 
whom they originated. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 35 

totems. When all was ready the leader of the Eng- 
wura shouted across to the women to this effect, and 
broke through the middle of the Parra, and through 
the line of boughs. Through the opening thus made 
the whole party walked in single file, each ab-moara man 
with his Illpongwurra in turn ran forward in a semi- 
circular course and back again. Then the young men 
were led up to the fires on which they knelt while the 
women pressed them down by their shoulders. The 
men then returned to the Engwura ground — the whole 
ceremony having taken place in silence — where the newly 
made Urliara men grouped themselves round the 
Kmiana. Thus, the rites closed ; the Kauaua was 
taken down and dismantled ; the Churinga were sorted 
out and returned to their respective owners. The old 
men went to their camps, while the newly made Urliara 
men had to remain in the bush till the ban of silence 
between them and their ab-moara men was removed. 
This was accomplished by each of the Urliara bringing 
an offering of food to his ab-moara man. Further cere- 
monies were performed in which the older men were 
sprinkled with blood drawn from the arms of the younger 
men. The elder ab-moara man then took a bunch of 
feathers previously used in the rites and touched the 
mouths of all those present. By means of this action, 
which is called Aralkalilma, the ban of silence was 
broken. 1 

Although the subject of the initiation of girls will be 
discussed, in a rather different connexion, in the next 
chapter, a word here on the subject may not be out of 
place. The various ceremonies which take place on 
the arrival of girls at puberty are distinctly less im- 
pressive than those of the boys. There is seldom an 
attempt at a formal initiation into the secret mysteries 

1 A nurtunja, a fragment of the food offered, or a piece of a 
decoration, is sometimes substituted for feathers. 



36 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of the tribe. A girl at puberty remains in seclusion, 
alone or attended by a female relative, till her first 
ordeal is over. With the Arunta the rites are more 
elaborate and correspond to the initiation rites con- 
cerned with men. The first consists in rubbing the 
girl's breasts with fat and red ochre, accompanied by 
the usual performances. The second is more painful, 
and corresponds to the subincision in the male, just as 
the first is equivalent to the throwing up and painting 
of the boys. 1 The girl is taken into the bush when 
she arrives at marriageable age, fourteen or fifteen, and 
there the operation called Atna-ariltha-kiima (atna, 
vulva ; hima, cut) is performed with a stone knife. 
After intercourse with the men who perform the cere- 
mony, her head is decorated by the man who operated 
and her body is painted with a mixture of fat and red 
ochre. Thus decorated she is taken to the camp of 
her special Unawa by the men who have performed the 
rite. She is not given a new name after any initiation 
ceremony. A number of African tribes initiate the 
girls with rites quite as elaborate and important as 
those of the boys. The Vey girls are instructed, in the 
seclusion of the bush, in various womanly duties — the 
care of children, cooking, making of nets, etc. — besides 
dances, games and songs. 2 

It is exceedingly difficult to find a satisfactory ex- 
planation of the origin or original purpose of initiation 
ceremonies. Spencer and Gillen, the most resourceful 
of investigators, failed to find any significance in the 
rites, or even of traditions to explain their meaning. 
All that the native can say is that, in the Alcheringa or 
its equivalent, there was some ancestor or other who 
first of all performed the operations upon himself and 

1 There is no equivalent to the Lartna operation or the 
Engwura ceremony. 

2 Webster, " Primitive Secret Societies," p. 45. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 37 

later upon other individuals. Since that time the 
natives have continued to follow his example, but why 
their ancestor originally performed the ceremony they 
have not the vaguest idea. 

Dr. Frazer thinks that the ceremonies are primarily 
intended to affect the assimilation of the youth to his 
totem. " They become intelligible," he says, "if we 
suppose that their substance consists in extracting the 
youth's soul in order to transfer it to his totem. For the 
extraction of his soul would naturally be supposed to 
kill the youth or at least to throw him into a death- 
like trance, which the savage hardly distinguishes from 
death. His recovery would then be attributed either 
to the gradual recovery of his system from the violent 
shock which it had received, or, more probably, the in- 
fusion into him of fresh life drawn from the totem." 1 
Professor Baldwin Spencer, however, concludes, in a 
paper read before the Anthropological Institute in 
1898, that there is not sufficient evidence to warrant 
this conclusion. 2 " Though," he says, " a man regards 
his totemic animal as being the same thing as himself, 
and only on rare occasions kills and eats it, yet this by 
no means implies that he regards it as possibly contain- 
ing the soul or spirit part of himself or of a human rela- 
tive." Mr. Crawley considers all initiation ceremonies 
as the outcome of sexual tabu, and therefore directed 
against the dangers of sexual contact at puberty. He 
regards the rites as means of safeguarding both male 
and female — hence the separation of the sexes at these 
times. 3 According to the more general theory of 
Frobinius, seclusion, fasting, the taking of a new name, 
etc., are all parts of a scheme whereby the novices are 
assimilated to the condition of spirits, that the spiritual 
power of the dead may be obtained, and a " regenera- 

1 " Golden Bough," 2nd Ed. iii. p. 422. 

2 " J. A. I.," xxviii. p. 280. 3 " Mystic Rose," pp. 294 ff. 



38 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

tion " thereby effected. In short, initiation is a " rite 
de passage " from childhood to manhood. 1 

The last two theories agree in making the significance 
of the rites primarily religious rather than social. This 
conclusion appears to be supported by existing evi- 
dence, especially in those cases where the magico- 
religious character envelops the whole official cult of 
the tribe. When a superhuman being is represented as 
the patron of the clan, or the protector of the ceremonies, 
or as the teacher of morals, with whom the clan enters 
into relations or offends by omission of the ceremonies, 
the rites are thought to be under the control of the being 
in question, and thus assume a definitely religious or 
magico-religious aspect. The Bora, for example, is a 
distinctly religious ceremony. It is said to have been 
instituted by Daramulun himself, and remains under 
his spiritual charge. Its rites " involve the idea of a 
dedication to supernatural powers," and the figure of 
the god, moulded in high relief on the earth in the cos- 
tume and attitude of the sacred dance, is intended to 
represent his personal presence. 2 

As the power of the chiefs develops and legal institu- 
tions become separated from magico-religious rites, 
the initiation of adults loses its original character. The 
shifting of social control from the elders to the tribal 
chiefs renders unnecessary the whole machinery of 
tribal initiation. For obedience to the tribe is sub- 
stituted obedience to the chief. Initiation ceremonies 
retain their democratic and tribal aspect only as long 
as the community is governed by tribal elders. In 
Melanesia and Africa, where political centralization 
has resulted in the establishment of chieftainships, 
secret societies have everywhere arisen on the basis of 
the original puberty organizations. Where the political 

1 Cf. Van Gennup, " Les Rites de Passage," chap. ii. 

2 Howitt, " J. A. I./' vol. vii., p. 242, and vol. xiv., p. 306. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 39 

power of the chiefs are as yet in a transitional stage, 
these societies tend to have a social restraining influence, 
as well as being supplementary to the activities of the 
former rulers. As these functions disappear with the 
increase of centralization, they take on a religious 
aspect. Thus in Polynesia and North America secret 
societies have developed into fraternities of priests or 
shamen whose business it is to duly perform the 
religious rites of the community. 

In some cases primitive initiation rites continued long 
after the establishment of chieftainships. Under such 
circumstances the chiefs often use them as a means of 
increasing and consolidating their power, and thus 
they assume a civil rather than a religious character. 
Dr. Livingstone shows how among the Bechuanas and 
Kaffirs the rites are " an ingenious plan for attaching 
members of the tribe to the chief's family, and for im- 
parting a discipline which renders the tribe easy of com- 
mand." 1 Sometimes the old rites are reserved for the 
elite or governing class, as in Melanesian societies where 
the initiated are the sons of the chiefs alone. Notwith- 
standing these divergences in development, Dr. Webster 
is probably correct in saying: "However striking may 
be the differences between such an institution as the 
Bora of the Australian natives and a tribal secret society 
like the Dukduk of the Bismarck Archipelago or the 
Egbo of West Africa, they appear, in the last analysis 
to be due fundamentally to the changes brought about 
when once the principle of limitation of membership 
is introduced. The process which converts the puberty 
institution into the secret societies of the people more 
advanced in culture, seems in general to be that of the 
gradual shrinkage of the earlier inclusive and demo- 
cratic organization consisting of all the members of the 
tribe. The outcome of this process, on the one hand, 
1 " Missionary Travels/' p. 166. 



40 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

is a limitation of the organization to those only who 
are able to satisfy the necessary entrance requirements ; 
and, on the other hand, the establishment in the fra- 
ternity so formed of various degrees through which 
candidates may pass in succession. With the fuller 
development of secret society characteristics, these 
degrees become more numerous, and passage through 
them more costly." * The breakdown of the primitive 
rites is complete when any one is allowed to enter the 
secret societies on payment of certain fees. 

The sacred mysteries embody, as has been seen, the 
inner religious life of the tribe. The secret societies 
represent a means of social control. Notwithstanding 
the essential difference in function, the societies usually 
respect the religious traditions and customs that have 
come down to them, and transmit them to their suc- 
cessors. Thus each of the numerous secret societies of 
the natives of North America deals with some kind of 
magical operation — the ripening of crops, the falling 
of rain, the success of hunting or fishing, and the treat- 
ment of innumerable individual ailments. With the 
disappearance of magical cults the rites degenerate 
into public rejoicings or mere buffoonery, although the 
societies themselves, through which communication 
with the sacred (and in later times, with the divine) is 
alone effected, retain all the functions of a cult. 

All the great religions of the East had initiation cere- 
monies in addition to their public cults. Some of the 
Greek mysteries originated in the pre-Homeric period, 
and, as Tiele has shown, among the western Semites 
the Syrian cults had their mysteries prior to the Assy- 
rian invasion of the country. 2 In the case of the 
Hebrews the counter-influence of the Prophets and the 

1 " Primitive Secret Societies," p. 83. 

2 " Religions de l'Egypte et des peuples Semitiques," p. 296. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 41 

Law held in check the tendency to fall back on primitive 
rites. 1 

The conquest of a nation tended to develop rather 
than to discourage initiation ceremonies, since the cus- 
tom was often to extend the privileges of a hitherto 
national religion embraced by the victorious people 
to those whom they subjected, through the establish- 
ment of initiation rites. Thus Mazdaeism organized 
the mysteries of Mithra, when the Archaemenians pene- 
trated to the Mediterranean. If, on the other hand, 
the victorious adopted the cult of the conquered nation, 
again initiation ceremonies had to be instituted in order 
that they might be admitted to the cult. An example 
of this is seen in the case of the institution of initiation 
ceremonies to the sacra gentilicia after the conquest of 
Eleusis by the Athenians, as a way of admission to the 
worship of Demeter. Gradually others were admitted 
to the rites, and thus initiation paved the way for the 
establishment of a catholic religion, with a commission 
to go and baptise (i.e. initiate) all nations. 

Crude and grotesque as are the most primitive initia- 
tion ceremonies, yet, like other magico-religious rites, 
they are made, through the process of evolution, a means 
of preparing men to receive a universalistic religion in 
which theChurch takes the place of the clan or of the 
society. The best and richest conception of theChurch 
is that which views it, in the language of the New Testa- 
ment, as the Body of Christ, 2 - — as the divinely organized 
human society, of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and 
in which mankind is brought into union with God. To 
this end initiation rites had been gradually pointing in 
their evolution from magic to the service of religion. 
They strive more and more to bring about a closer inter- 

1 " Religion of the Semites," p. 358. 

2 Rom. xii. 5 ; 1 Cor. x. 17 ; xii. 27 ; Ephes. i. 22, 23 ; iv. 
12 ; v. 23 ; Col. i. 18, 24. 



42 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

course between the initiated and the gods. As a conse- 
quence new feelings of curiosity and anxiety are ex- 
hibited among the novices in the higher systems, allied 
to which is an ardent desire for communion with the 
divine, or with the sacred world, as represented by the 
changing of the seasons, the transformation of the crops 
or the revolution of the stars. Even in the most primi- 
tive culture the rites are thought to evolve mystic influ- 
ences which bring the novice into contact with spiritual 
forces, and thereby effect a rebirth. In fact, he is often 
supposed to actually temporarily pass into the spirit 
world, and thus come into closest contact with the super- 
natural. That he carries mana away with him is shown 
by his being regarded as dangerous until certain cere- 
monies, such as silence, abstinence, supposed forget- 
fulness of his previous existence, have been performed. 
Furthermore, there is frequent recourse to communion, 
through which the novices, by partaking of the food of 
the initiated, become assimilated with him. In Aus- 
tralia the Churinga are the instruments by which the 
youth is brought into contact with the All-Father, etc., 
while among other primitive people amulets, masks, 
images, etc., are thought to have a similar effect. In 
the higher religions this concept often develops into 
the sacrificial meal whereby a union is established be- 
tween man and the gods. The communication of man 
with the sacred — using this term in an anthropological 
sense — appears to be the essential object and the per- 
manent element in the rites, the sacramental nature 
becoming more and more pronounced till at last, in the 
Christian Eucharist, wherein man dwells in Christ and 
Christ in man, it finds its consummation. 

Before concluding the discussion on initiation rites 
the question of the origin and significance of circumcision 
demand consideration, since of all the customs men- 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 43 

tioned under this heading, this particular operation has 
the widest distribution. Excluding Europe and non- 
Semitic Asia, its range is practically worldwide. Few 
explanations, however, have been given in folk-lore 
to account for its origin. " It was so in the Alcheringa," 
is the typical answer given by the Australian native 
when questioned on the matter. Here savage philoso- 
phy on the subject appears to end. 

Since interest in primitive customs has been awak- 
ened by the systematic study of anthropology, several 
theories have been put forth to account for the practice. 
It has been explained like tattooing, cutting off a finger 
joint and other mutilations, as embracing the twofold 
idea of offering a sacrifice to the god and furnishing a 
tribal mark by which the god may easily know his 
followers, and they may be known to each other. That 
it had this latter force among the Semites is attested by 
its history among the Hebrews. Thus, in Exodus iv. 
24, 25, Yahwe is represented as trying to kill Moses 
or his son, as though he were of a foreign stock till 
Gershom is circumcised. Then He desists. The priestly 
writer regards the rite as a sign of Yahweh's covenant 
with His people. 1 Circumcision no doubt tends to 
tribal unity both among primitive people and the 
Hebrews, but at the same time it must be remembered 
that a tribal mark is usually conspicuous rather than 
concealed, as for example tattooing or knocking out of 
a front tooth. There is therefore much to be said in 
favour of Stade's conclusion that circumcision is not 
so much a mark of membership of a tribe as initiation 
into manhood and the acquirement of the full rights of 
a citizen. 2 
The sacrificial idea connected with circumcision is 



1 Gen. xvii. 10-12. 

2 " Zeitschrift fur die Alttest. Wissenschaft. 



44 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

found among Mayas and Mexicans, where it is symbo- 
lical of the sacrifice of the whole body to the deity 
affecting a union by blood between the individual and 
the god. 1 In Arabia the circumstances under which 
it is performed " point to the origin of circumcision as 
a sacrifice to the goddess of fertility, by which the 
child was placed under her protection, and its repro- 
ductive powers consecrated to her service." 2 But it 
can hardly be concluded that the rite itself is sacrificial 
in origin, especially as it is found in such countries as 
Australia where sacrifice exists only in a rudimentary 
form. Furthermore, there is no trace of the sacrificial 
conception of the custom in the fertility cults of Egypt, 
Babylon or Syria, or in the Old Testament. 

Utilitarian motives have been given by many, includ- 
ing Philo and Herodotus, to account for the origin of 
the rite. 3 But hygienic principles are by no means con- 
spicuous among primitive people, and therefore this 
theory is highly improbable. A more reasonable ex- 
planation is that it constitutes a preparation for mar- 
riage, occurring, as it invariably does, at the age of 
puberty. In fact, Professor Barton finds this the 
original cause among the primitive Hebrews. 4 In sup- 
port of this statement he quotes the cases mentioned 
in Genesis xxxiv. 14, and Exodus iv. 25, where he 
thinks the ceremony is connected with the " Bride- 
groom." But in the former reference circumcision 
seems to be regarded as a tribal custom which it would 
be a disgrace to infringe. We will only consent to this 
exogamous marriage, say the Hebrews, on the condition 
that the Hivvite becomes an initiated member of the 
tribe. In the latter case the incident probably 

1 " Origen de los Indios del Nuevo Mundo," p. 29. 

2 Barton, " Semitic Origins," p. 100. 

3 " De Circumcisione," ii. p. 211. " Kadapibr-qros eiVe/ce/'ii., p. 37. 

4 " Semitic Origins," pp. 100, 280 ff. 



PRIVATE RITES: INITIATION 45 

describes the origin of infant circumcision 1 — the 
characteristic of the Hebrew rite — the change of custom 
calling forth the anger of Zipporah, who, as a Midianite, 
was accustomed to circumcision immediately preceding 
marriage. In this case the rite seems to be more inti- 
mately connected with the " blood covenant " than with 
connubium. " By circumcising the child instead of 
Moses, and touching Moses with blood, Zipporah sym- 
bolically brought her husband into the state which 
Yahweh was supposed to require ; he became a ' bride- 
groom of blood.' " 2 

No doubt there is some ground for Mr. Crawley's 
conclusions that " circumcision and artificial hymen- 
perforation originated in the intention both to obviate 
hylo-idealistic danger resulting from apparent closure, 
and to remove a separable part of a taboo organ." 3 
Thus is secured the safety of the woman and those who 
have contact with her. This conception of cleansing 
attached to the rite among'the Jews and Egyptians is in 
this manner explained, together with that of the sacri- 
fice of a portion of the organ in the phallic worship con- 
nected with the phallic deity Elegbra. This theory 
does not, however, account for incision, neither is it 
supported by the fact that the removed prepuce of 
the " tabu organ " is often kept as a charm, or swal- 
lowed by the novice or his attendants. 

A less probable theory is that put forth by Frazer, as 
an after- thought, in the " Independent Review." 4 He 
thinks that " the original intention of the custom among 
the Arunta boys of placing their foreskins in their nanja 
trees was that of securing the future birth and reincar- 
nation of the owner of the foreskin when he should 

1 The narrative in Exod. iv. 15 is, of course, older than 
Gen. xvii. 

2 Westminster Comm. " Exodus," p. 29. 

3 " Mystic Rose," p. 135. 4 iv. 208-218. 



46 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

have died and his spirit returned to its abode in the 
tree." If this conception has ever existed it is cer- 
tainly long after the origin of circumcision. The pre- 
servation of the bones or body of the deceased is the 
usual means of securing reincarnation in primitive cult. 
At the conclusion of the article Frazer answers a ques- 
tion propounded by Professor H. Gunkel as to why 
circumcision should assure the fallen warrior in Ezekiel 
xxii. 19, 21, 24 ff. a better lot in Sheol, by affirming 
that " the Australian evidence suggests that per- 
haps, in the belief of the ancient Semites, the grave 
was a bourne from which only the circumcised traveller 
could return." 1 Even if the words of the prophets 
imply that the uncircumcised were debarred from resur- 
rection — an idea by no means clearly expressed — it 
is only because he regarded them as " outcasts " ; not 
in covenant with Yahweh through circumcision : an 
indispensable condition for participation in the cultus 
of the nation, and therefore in any benefits that may 
be derived therefrom in the " under world." 

From this brief survey of circumcision it seems evi- 
dent that no single theory can be said by itself to account 
for every phase of the rite. Perhaps the most satisfac- 
tory explanation that can be offered is that primarily 
it was an initiation ceremony having various interpre- 
tations in different localities. In this way the theories 
that it is a preparation for marriage, — a tribal mark, a 
means of averting sexual peril, are all correct inasmuch 
as they represent factors in the initiation to manhood. 
It must also be, as Zaborowski maintains, a test of 
endurance, since this motive takes a prominent place 
in initiation ceremonies. 2 This is practically the result 
arrived at by Robertson Smith when he says circum- 
cision " was originally a preliminary to marriage, and 
so a ceremony of introduction to the full prerogative of 

1 Loc. cit., p. 218. 2 " L' Anthropologic," vii., pp. 653-675. 



PRIVATE RITES : INITIATION 47 

manhood." 1 Mr. Louis Grey, in his encylopaedia 
(" Religion and Ethics "), article on " Circumcision," 
would go farther than this and say that " all kinds of 
circumcision are ultimately reducible ... to one cause, 
sacrifice ; since initiation, with its accompanying aus- 
terities, may conceivably be regarded as itself a sacri- 
fice to the tribal deity to gain admission to the people 
whom he protects." 

On this view that the rite originated as an initiation 
ceremony the transference to infancy among the Hebrews 
must be regarded as a later change. The primary 
intention was then dissipated, except that, by becoming 
a tribal mark, it to all intents and purposes retained 
its initiatory character. In fact its perpetuation in 
this form can only be explained by the inherited belief 
that it was an indispensable condition to participation 
in the cultus of the clan. 2 

All initiation rites are, strictly speaking, religious 
because they are all connected with the sacred. There- 
fore, if the origin of circumcision is to be found in 
initiation rites, it is a religious rather than a social 
institution. This conclusion is placed beyond dispute 
if Mr. Gray is correct in tracing the custom back to 
sacrifice. 

1 " Religion of the Semites," p. 328. 

2 cf. Deut. x., 16 ; xxx. 6 ; Ezek. xl. iv. 7, 9 ; where circum- 
cision is represented as allegiance to Yahweh. 



CHAPTER IV 
PRIVATE RITES : MARRIAGE 

Modes of obtaining wives in Australia — Infant betrothal — 
Capture — Arunta customs — Social organization — Individual 
wives — The wider relation — The Urabunna system — Marriage 
by love-charms — Arunta customs — Marriage ceremonies in the 
lower and higher culture — Polyandry — Promiscuity — Polygyny 
— Monogamy the normal and natural form of marriage — Mar- 
riage a natural relationship and permanent union — The Chris- 
tian ideal. 

THE Scriptural account of the origin of mar- 
riage as set forth in the opening chapters of 
the Bible can hardly be regarded as an his- 
torical or anthropological explanation of the beginning 
of nuptial relations. Like the rest of the cosmogony 
of Genesis this narrative must be looked upon in the 
words of the late Dr. Driver, as " explanations prompted 
by the religious reflection upon the facts of life." 
Nevertheless recent scientific investigation appears to 
point in the direction of the religious rather than the 
social origin of the institution. Thus, Mr. Crawley says : 
"It is only in later culture that marriage is a ' civil 
act,' and though in early catholic times marriage was 
not necessarily performed by the Church, it was still in 
essence a religious rite, and had been so before Chris- 
tianity, as it was in the earliest ages. One of the crudest 
modes of marriage known, that of the Arunta, and other 
central Australian tribes, is proved, by a note of Messrs. 
Spencer and Gillen, to be a real religious act, though to 

48 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 49 

all appearance this would seem impossible." x An 
examination of the various ceremonies by which man 
and woman are " joined together " shows that they 
have just as much right to be called religious as rites 
connected with birth, baptism and initiation. 

To avoid confusion of thought it is necessary to 
accept a general definition, along the lines of which 
an investigation of marriage and its attendant rites in 
primitive society may be investigated. For the pur- 
pose of the present chapter, perhaps, the best definition 
is that set forth by Dr. Westermarck in his later work, 
" The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas." 2 "As 
a social institution ... it is a union regulated by 
custom and law. Society lays down the rules relating 
to the selection of partners, to the mode of contracting 
marriage, to its form, and to its duration." In this 
way marriage, considered anthropologically, is a social 
institution having an economic, legal, moral and reli- 
gious aspect, and a world-wide application ; for the tribe 
has yet to be found in which unions are not regulated 
by custom and law. Dr. Malinowski, in his " Family 
among the Australian Aborigines," has clearly proved 
that individual marriage, as opposed to primitive pro- 
miscuity, is the rule in Australian society, quoting forty- 
nine instances of the modes of obtaining wives in vogue 
among the natives. 3 Most of these are of a specific 
nature. The simplest and therefore perhaps the com- 
monest method is to exchange a sister for a wife. Be- 
trothal often takes place at or even before birth, which 
shows ipso facto how deeply-rooted is the idea of the 
individual right of a man to a woman in the primitive 
mind. Even in elopements there are certain rites and 
formalities that have to be observed, as, for instance, 
the magic sleep into which the parents are cast, and 

1 " Mystic Rose," p. 6, 2 Vol. ii., p. 364. 3 pp. 34-66. 
4 



50 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

the hasty retreat of the lovers to a convenient distance 
from the camp ere the irate parents awake. Marriage 
by capture is not unknown, but Mr. Curr is probably 
correct in saying that this method is more or less rare 
as it would lead to constant attacks from the tribe from 
which the woman was stolen. 1 

Superficially such modes of obtaining wives appear 
to be very simple and haphazard, but in reality the ela- 
borate system of phratry organization in vogue among 
the people greatly restricts a man in his choice of a wife. 2 
Accordingly in Australia the tribe is divided into phra- 
tries or moieties, and these again subdivided into classes, 
either four or eight in number. These latter form a 
special variety of the exogamous system in which a person 
has not only to marry outside his own class, but has to 
marry into another specified group. In the four class 
system each moiety is composed of two sections, the 
marriages of members of one section of one moiety 
being limited to one section of the other. In the eight 
class system each of the four classes is composed of two 
sections, in which descent follows the same kind of rules 
as in the four class system, but of a more complicated 
kind. 

The simplest organization is represented by the 
Urabunna and Dieri tribes of Australia, where dual 
organization — the system of marrying across — prevails. 
Among the latter the totem-kins — cross divisions with 
the class — are found in the phratry, but it is so arranged 
that no kin is found in both phratries, and marriage is 
regulated simply by the rule of exogamy. Among 
the Urabunna one totem-kin may not intermarry with 
any and every totem-kin of the opposite phratry, but 
each is limited to one kin. Thus wild ducks are 
only allowed to marry carpet snakes, the children 

1 " Australian Race," i., p. 108. 2 " Native Tribes," chap. ii. 



PRIVATE RITES : MARRIAGE 51 

taking the name of the mother's totem (matrilineal 
descent) . 

The Kariera tribe on the north-western coast of Aus- 
tralia is divided into four classes — Banaka, Burung, 
Palyeri, and Karimera. 1 A Banaka man may only 
marry a Burung woman. The two classes, Banaka and 
Burung, thus form an " intermarrying pair," although 
it must not be inferred that any Banaka man may 
marry any Burung woman, but only that he may not 
marry a woman of any other class. The children of a 
Banaka man and a Burung woman are Palyeri, while 
those of a Burung man and a Bunaka woman are Kari- 
mera. The system may thus be described graphically : 

Banaka = Burung. 

t x 3 

Karimera Palyeri. 

It will be observed that man and wife must belong to 
opposite phratries and that " descent follows the 
distaff," since the children belong to the same phratry, 
though not to the same class, as their mother. 

Dr. Rivers has shown 2 that there are probably similar 
groupings in Melanesia, though of a less definite kind 
than in Australia. 

In the Arunta, unlike most Australian tribes, there 
are no marriage restrictions whatever as far as the 
totems are concerned. In this tribe and in other cen- 
tral tribes the totem-kin is found in both phratries, 
and tends to coincide with the local groups. There 
may be many kangaroo groups, but all kangaroo people 
in them are of the same totem-kin. 3 Although methods 

1 " J. A. I.," xliii., pp. 143 ff. 

2 " History of Melanesian Society." 

3 " Native Tribes," chap, ii, 



52 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of securing wives in this region include the magic use 
of love-charms to entice a girl to her lover, and also 
capture, and elopement, it is the custom of Titalcha- 
mura that is the most usual method of obtaining a 
wife. 1 An arrangement is made between two men 
that the relationship shall be established between their 
two children, one a boy and the other a girl, both of 
tender years. They are then taken to the women's 
camp where each mother rubs the other child all over 
with a mixture of fat and ochre in the presence of all 
the other women. Some of the girl's hair is cut off 
and given to the boy to signalize the fact that when 
grown up it will be her duty to provide him (her son- 
in-law as he will be) with her own hair from which to 
make his waist-girdle. The girl must be Mura to the 
boy, that is, one whose daughters belong to the class 
from which his wife must come. By this ceremony 
she becomes Tualcha-miira, i.e., his actual or prospec- 
tive mother-in-law. This relationship indicates that 
the man has the right to take the daughter of the woman ; 
she is, in fact, assigned to him, and this, as a general 
rule, many years before she is born. 

Enough has been said to show that if Australia can 
be taken as an example of a really primitive community 
there is absolutely no reason to suppose that primeval 
society consisted of an undivided commune — a theory 
put forth be Bachofen, Morgan, McLennan and Lub- 
bock. So rapidly did this theory win favour that in 
1891 it was, according to Westermarck, " treated by 
many writers as a demonstrated truth." 2 No doubt 
the popularity of the hypothesis was largely due to the 
fact that it supported the theories of primitive common 
property and of economic determinism advocated by 
the Marxian school of Socialists. Almost the only 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 558. 

2 " History of Human Marriage," p. 51. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 53 

positive evidence in its favour is the fragmentary testi- 
mony of some ancient classical writers, such as Hero- 
dotus and Strabo. But even if the examples quoted 
refer to promiscuity, they are too few to justify the 
conclusion that all people lived originally in the condi- 
tions which they describe. As to the indirect evidence 
in favour of this theory, consisting of inferences from 
such customs as matrilincal descent, religious prosti- 
tution, unrestrained sexual intercourse previous to 
marriage and primitive community of property — every 
one of these conditions can be explained more easily 
on other grounds than on the assumption of promis- 
cuity. 

The attitude of recent authorities to the theory 
is thus set forth by Howard : " The researches of several 
recent writers, notably those of Starcke and Wester- 
marck, confirming in part and further developing the 
earlier conclusions of Darwin and Spencer, have estab- 
lished a probability that marriage or pairing between 
one man and one woman, though the union be only 
transitory and the rule frequently violated, is the 
typical form of sexual union from the infancy of the 
human race." 1 

Morgan, who is largely responsible for the promulga- 
tion of the doctrine of primitive promiscuity, first 
studied the Iroquois, and, no doubt, thoroughly digested 
their social organization. He subsequently put Fison 
on to collect similar facts in Fiji. This latter investi- 
gator afterwards went to Australia, where he met Howitt. 
It is, therefore, easily explained why Howitt is inclined 
to find group marriage everywhere in the south-east 
district. Dr. Frazer, in his " Totemism and Exogamy," 
adopts much the same line. 

There are four main arguments put forth in favour of 
communal marriage : — 

1 " History of Matrimonial Institutions," i., pp. 90, 91. 



54 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

(i.) The Classifwatovy System. — Because the savage 
calls all men father it is argued that he has no concep- 
tion of individual paternity. But it should be remem- 
bered that he also calls all women mother. It is surely 
contrary to the natural order of things to suppose that 
a woman does not know her own child as distinct from 
other children, and that the child regards all women 
as its mother. Again, it is said, the matrimonial class 
does not define actual marriage but marriageability. 
That is to say, it defines a group in which a selection of 
partners may be made according to choice. But the 
mere fact that the class system shows a man where to 
look for a wife, presupposes the existence of individual 
marriage. The classificatory system is based on exo- 
gamy. The question, " Why do people marry out ? " 
necessitates, by way of answer, the definition of mar- 
riageability. 

(ii.) Supplementary Unions. — According to Gason 1 
the Dieri girls are betrothed to one man in infancy, who, 
in due course, becomes her Tippa-malkn husband. 
This is an individual relationship, since no woman can 
be Tippa-malku to two or more men at the same time. 
In due course certain supplementary unions are sanc- 
tioned by the council of old men. This is called the 
Pirrauru relationship, which is one in which a group of 
men and a group of women have the right of sexual 
intercourse with one another. But a Pirmuru is always 
a wife's sister, or a brother's wife, or in some definite 
relationship to her partner. Therefore, the system is 
merely an extension of conjugal rights within what the 
savage regards as the " family circle." Furthermore, 
the relationship is only supplementary. When a man 
goes on a journey the Piraungaru husband steps into 
his place ; or, if a visitor, being of the proper class, 

1 Woods, " Native Tribes of South Australia," and Howitt. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 55 

calls upon a friend the host may offer him his Tippa- 
malku as a temporary Pirrauru, but only provided he 
is Noa (i.e. in the relation of " spouseship ") to her. 
Therefore this system, though regrettably loose, does 
not constitute promiscuity, but rather represents an 
extreme degree of private ownership. In like manner, 
the sexual relations between groups of men formed 
by the husband's brother and the group of women 
formed by the wife's sisters in Melanesia, are but the 
extension of marital rights to members of a conven- 
tional brotherhood. 1 

(hi.) Ritual Defloration. — Among all the tribes ex- 
amined by Spencer and Gillen ritual defloration is prac- 
tised on the girl by men standing to her in a definite 
relationship, as a marriage ceremony connected with 
the handing over of the girl to her allotted husband. 2 
There is, however, no reason to suppose that this is a 
survival of primitive promiscuity. It is rather, as will 
be subsequently shown, a religious ceremony — a "rite 
de passage" — safeguarding the dangers to which the 
individuals are subjected at any transition from one 
period of life to another. 

(iv.) Ceremonial License. — Besides ritual defloration 
and the Pirrauru relationship considerable license is 
allowed on certain occasions when large numbers of 
men and women are gathered together to perform cor- 
robborees. 3 At such times conventional restrictions 
such as class rules are broken down, but blood ties are 
respected. A man may have access to his mother-in- 
law, who, under normal conditions, is strictly tabu to 
him, but under no circumstances can there be any re- 
laxation of the rule of chastity observed within blood 

1 Howitt, pp. 175 ft. Seligman, " Melanesians of British New 
Guinea," p. 473. 

2 " Native Tribes," pp. 92 ff. " Northern Tribes, pp. 133 ff. 

3 " Native Tribes," pp. 96, 97. 



56 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

relationships (actual father, brothers and sons of a 
woman). Therefore, it may be concluded that on all 
occasions when ceremonial license takes place, the 
strict class exogamy does not hold good, but incest, as 
regards blood relationship, is always strictly forbidden, 
and, consequently, a state of primitive promiscuity does 
not exist. 

It will therefore be seen that the marital relations 
of the tribes fall under three headings. The first is 
the normal one, when the woman is the wife of one man, 
and no one, without his consent, can have access to 
her. The second is the wider relation in regard to 
particular men at the time of marriage. The third is 
the still wider relation which obtains on certain occa- 
sions, such as the holding of important corrobborees. It 
must not be forgotten, however, that licentious as is 
the last-named relationship, it is the exception rather 
than the rule. Under ordinary circumstances, for a 
man to have intercourse with a woman who is not his 
lawful wife is a very grave offence and liable to punish- 
ment by death. Furthermore, except in those tribes 
where the Pirrauru relationship exists, the system of 
individual wives prevails, modified as indicated above. 

Among the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, when a girl 
arrives at marriageable age, which is usually fourteen 
or fifteen, the man to whom she has been allotted speaks 
to his Unkulla l men, and they, together with men who 
are Unkulla and Unawa to the girl, but not including 
her future husband, take her out into the bush and 
there perform the Atna-ariUJia-kuma operation as 
described on page 36. She then becomes the special 
wife of the Unawa, to whom no one else has the right 
of access, except on very special occasions when he 



1 Unkulla is a relationship term applied to the sons and 
daughters of the latter's sisters. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 57 

may, as an act of courtesy, lend her to a " visitor," pro- 
vided he belongs to the same totcmic class as himself. 
The woman wears the decorations she receives at her 
marriage rites for a few days, and then returns them to 
her Ipmunna man. 

Among the Kaitish, Warramunga, Iliaura, Waagai, 
Bingo ngina, Walpari and Luticha tribes similar cere- 
monies take place, the perforation of the hymen being 
the central act, though the people set apart for the 
performance of the operation vary in different tribes. 
Thus, among the Kaitish it is an Arari, or elder sister of 
the woman, who officiates, and among the Warramunga, 
Waagai, and Bingongina the operation is performed by 
a man who is Turpundi (the equivalent of the Ipmunna 
in the Arunta) or by an elder sister. 

Occasionally magic is resorted to among these tribes 
for procuring a wife, provided the woman belongs to 
the proper class. Armed with a small wooden Churinga, 
corresponding to the " Love charm " in the Yaroinga 
tribe, the would-be husband goes into the bush accom- 
panied by two or three friends. All night long the 
party keep up a low singing of Quabara songs and 
amorous phrases addressed to the woman. At day- 
light the man stands up and swings the Churinga. The 
sound of the humming, caused by the bull-roarer strik- 
ing the ground, is supposed to reach the woman and 
stir up her affections towards the man. If this brings 
about the desired result, and the woman comes to the 
man who has thus sought her, the union is regarded as 
perfectly lawful, and, in the event of the former husband 
actively resenting her elopement, the tribe to which 
the aggressor belongs supports his claims, if necessary, 
by fighting. But under no circumstances would a 
man be aided in securing a wife by this method, unless 
she belongs to the same class into which he might law- 
fully marry. A Chilera, or charmed head-band, made 



58 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of opossum or euro fur- string and whitened with pipe- 
clay is sometimes worn by a lover as a means of 
magically attracting the woman of his choice. 1 

Although these methods of marriage are occasionally 
resorted to and permitted by tribal law, yet they are 
not apparently of frequent occurrence, owing to the 
dangers attending elopement to those concerned. On 
the other hand the young Kurnai usually acquires a 
wife by running away with her secretly with her own 
consent. 2 A young man so fortunate as to have an un- 
married sister, and to have a friend similarly provided, 
might arrange with him that they should take each 
other's sisters, these being, of course, consenting parties ; 
for under the peculiar conditions of the tribe the choice 
of a husband rested altogether with the woman. Or a 
girl might send a message to a young man, such as, 
" Will you find me some food ? " The services of the 
Bunjil yenjin (a medicine man whose speciality was 
the arrangement of marriages by elopement spells) were 
often sought in such cases by former generations. 

In the Atna-ariltha-kuma ceremony, common to all 
the central tribes of Australia examined by Spencer 
and Gillen from the Urabunna in the south to those 
occupying the western shore of the gulf of Carpentaria, 
there is represented one of the crudest forms of marriage 
known, and yet it is in reality a religious act. In Aus- 
tralia universal law forbids a man to marry until after 
the ceremonies are performed by which the status of 
young man is reached. 3 Furthermore, the Atna-ariltha- 
kuma operation is in reality an initiation ceremony 
equivalent to the Pura-ariltha-kuma amongst the men, 
and consequently it always takes place at pubert}'. 4 
The intercourse that follows the rupture of the hymen 

1 " Native Tribes," pp. 541 and 543. 2 Howitt, p. 273. 

3 Curr, " Australian Race," i., p. 106. 

4 " J. A. I.," xxiv., pp. 168, 169. 



PRIVATE RITES : MARRIAGE 59 

is also a ceremonial act of a religious character. There- 
fore this primitive form of marriage is essentially a 
religious rite. 

In higher culture, especially in India, South-East Asia, 
and the Malay Archipelago, marriage ceremonies often 
become very complex, extending over weeks or months, 
and tend to have an economic value. To this end 
objects, clothes, etc., are given by the friends of one 
partner to those of the other, as the price of the bride or 
dower. In Melanesia a long series of payments and nego- 
tiations with persons of rank take place before marriage. 
The man who tattooes the girl at puberty — a mark of 
marriageability — receives food and many pigs, and is 
also the recipient of a feast at the expense of the rela- 
tives. At some time a further payment is made and 
the girl is then given up, with an extra sum to " break 
the post near the door used to take hold of in going in 
and out of the house." The bride is then carried to 
the husband's party, who take her away. She is obliged 
to stay indoors for several months till her parents bring 
another present of pigs and food, with which the wed- 
ding banquet is made. Thus the marriage is consum- 
mated. The amount given by the bridegroom's party 
varies according to the wealth and position of the 
families ; from 50 to a 100 rongo, coils of native money 
When 50 is given, the bride's party give in return five 
pigs ; and when 10, ten pigs. They say, however, 
that the money buys the pigs and not the damsel. 1 
No doubt, as Van Gennep suggests, the conflicts that 
form a prominent feature in marriage rites in many 
parts of the world are associated with the vested inter- 
ests affected by a marriage. The family, clan, or village 
loses a " productive agent " whenever one of its mem- 
bers marry, and therefore it requires compensation. 

Another group of rites consist of acts symbolic of 
1 Codrington, " Melanesians," pp. 237 f. 



60 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

the various features of marriage. The essence of mar- 
riage being the " joining together " of man and woman, 
many ceremonies symbolize the union by the joining of 
hands and the tying together of garments. Likewise, 
in Java if a man wishes to be divorced, the priest cuts 
the " marriage cord " before witnesses, thus severing the 
nuptial tie. 1 At an Abyssinian wedding the bride and 
bridegroom hook their little fingers together under a 
cloth which is held over them, while the Puttooas tie 
the thumbs of the pair together. 2 Among the Bondei 
the bride and bridegroom hold hands, each takes his or 
her kungwi by the hand, and each kungwi holds the 
hand of a child. 3 With similar intention the bridal 
pair are caused to eat and drink together or march 
round a fire. Eating food together produces what 
Mr. Crawley calls the ngia ngiampe relation, and thereby 
constitutes the strongest of all ties. Food produces 
flesh, and therefore the mutual inoculation by the same 
food makes the two " one flesh." This conception is 
brought out in a highly spiritualized manner, in the 
Christian Church, by the Mass forming part of the 
marriage ceremony in both the Latin and English rite. 
The practice of pouring rice or wheat on the head of the 
bride is probably primarily connected with notions 
of promoting fertility, and, in a secondary sense, of 
giving food to evil influences to induce them to depart. 
Another large group of rites is associated with the 
superiority of one of the contracting parties. In 
Morocco a bride mounts a ram when she is painted 
with henna and boxes its ears, the ram representing her 
husband, over whom she thus makes herself the ruler. 
She hangs on it a necklace to make him weak and harm- 
less like a woman, and when it has been killed she puts 
her right foot on its stomach. To further gain power 

1 " Mystic Rose," p. 325. 2 Op. cit., p. 373. 
8 " J. A. I.," xxv., p. 199. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 61 

over her husband she is seated on a pack-saddle as a 
person rules over the donkey or mule he is riding. So 
as to become his mistress she smacks at her bridegroom 
when he is running through the tent, or beats him three 
times on his body with her slippers in the nuptial cham- 
ber. If he cries out she will rule the household, other- 
wise he will rule over her. The bridegroom tries to 
gain power over his wife by tapping her three or seven 
times on the head or shoulder with his sword, or with 
the cord of his dagger, or by drinking first from the 
bowl which he then holds for her to drink from. 1 A 
whip is sometimes given to the bridegroom to show 
his superiority, and the use of the ring may also be a 
survival of a ceremony originally designed for a similar 
purpose. 

The intention of a large class of preliminary rites is 
that of purification, to neutralize the dangers consequent 
upon the entrance into the marriage state. Reference 
has already been made to these ceremonies in connexion 
with ritual defloration. In addition to ceremonial 
unions to remove the dangers of sexual intercourse, lus- 
trations and kindred rites are often performed. Before 
the wedding the bridegroom in south Celebes bathes in 
hot water, and the bride is fumigated. Among the 
Malays lustrations are continued by the newly married 
pair for three days. The first ceremonies at a wedding 
consist in fumigating the bride and bridegroom with 
incense, and then smearing them with " neutralizing 
paste " which averts " ill-luck." 2 To this class of cus- 
toms belong such rites as the shaving of the bridegroom's 
head, the dishevelling of the bride's hair, the wearing 
of new clothes, the painting of the garments, etc., with 
various substances, the use of candles, incense, salt, etc., 



1 Westermarck, " Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco," pp. 355 ff. 

2 " Mystic Rose," p. 326. 



62 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

purifications with flour, bread, wheat, etc., the wearing 
of charms, the bride imitating the appearance of a man, 
the firing of guns, loud music and singing. 1 Even the 
persons and animals brought into contact with the bridal 
pair require purifying. 

It is clear from the foregoing rites that primitive 
man is full of apprehension of the mutual danger inher- 
ent in sexual contact, and in the transition from one 
period of life to another. A wedding is a " rite de pas- 
sage," and to pass into a new condition or to do anything 
for the first time is considered to be attended with 
danger. In the case of marriage the supposed peril is 
greatly increased by the nrysterious and defiling nature 
of sexual intercourse. The sexual act, therefore, in 
primitive society is something more than a physiological 
fact (the significance of which the savage is often appar- 
ently ignorant), but a phenomenon complex both in its 
sociological and psychological aspects. Accordingly 
it is the object of magico-religious ideas and emotions, 
resulting in a system of rites, customs, and institutions, 
which can never be understood without reference to 
the underlying psychology. 

From the foregoing brief survey of the ritual associated 
with marriage it seems evident that all the ceremonies 
are of an individualistic nature 2 since they always refer 
to the two individuals concerned and not to groups. 
It also appears that in nearly all cases marriage is accom- 
panied by some rites having for their purpose the union 
of the contracting parties. Thus, in Australia the ex- 
change of fire-sticks is binding, and, among the Euah- 
layi, the promise of a girl has to be strengthened by the 
act of formal betrothal, in order to make it valid, 
There can be little doubt but that the joining of hands, 
the placing of feathers, the exchange of fire-sticks, etc., 

1 " Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco," p. 321 ff, 
8 " Mystic Rose," p. 320, 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 63 

have some inherent force, and constitute a form of 
sacramental union. Thus, a social fact is transformed 
into a sacrament by endowing the ceremonies with a 
supernatural sanction. Dr. Malinowski adequately 
sums up the situation by saying : "As well in the be- 
trothal ceremonies as in infant engagements, in the ideas 
of legality of marriage, exchange of females and pur- 
chase of the wife — in all these facts we find that the 
aborigines have a deeply-rooted idea and high apprecia- 
tion of the individual rights of the husband to his 
wife." 1 

In the case of marriage by the aid of love-charms, 
a magical element is introduced to give a supernatural 
sanction to the procedure. The act of union appears 
to constitute a marriage ceremony of the sacramental 
kind, similar in character to the union by carnal copu- 
lation mentioned by St. Paul. " He that is joined to 
a harlot is one body, for the twain shall become one 
flesh " (1 Cor. vi. 16). If such casual intercourse can 
be described by the Apostle as constituting a permanent 
union between man and woman, how much more must 
the merging of two lives into one by marital relations 
be considered a valid marriage ceremony constituting a 
permanent alliance. Again, this means of union is of 
a religious nature, since sexual intercourse is regarded 
by the human organism as essentially a sacred act. It 
is, as has been shown, for this very reason that the 
elaborate tabu precautions have to be taken before the 
sexes are brought into contact. Marriage is thus the 
religious act by which, from the most primitive times, 
the natural inclinations of man for woman, and vice 
versa, are satisfied in a lawful manner. It would be 
contrary to the evolutionary principle, by which the 
world is governed, to find a perfect monogamous system 

1 " The Family among the Australian Aborigines," p. 62 ; 
cf, " Mystic Rose," pp. 370 ff. 



64 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

in vogue in primitive society, though the principle of 
monogamy is certainly discernible even in the Austra- 
lian marital relations. 

Polyandry, the union of several husbands with one 
wife, is a derivation from the typical form of sexual 
union. It exists among the aborigines of America, the 
Bantus, the Hottentots, and Bahima in Africa, in the 
Marquesas Islands, in India, and in Indonesia ; the 
custom was also prevalent among the primitive Arabs 
and the ancient Britons. In most instances, however, 
it is the exception rather than the rule. Monogamy 
or polygamy is much more general. As in the case of 
the Australians, the greater number of polyandrous 
unions are of the fraternal kind and therefore the custom 
is softened in the direction of monogamy, since the wife 
belongs only to the group of men united by the closest 
ties of blood. Furthermore, the first husband enjoys 
conjugal rights superior to the others, and therefore the 
wife had only one husband in the full sense of the term. 
This is seen in the case of the Urabunna and Dieri, to 
whom a man of an intermarrying class has the right of 
access on certain occasions, subject to the husband's 
consent. The very fact that the husband's consent 
must be obtained proves that a woman has only one 
proper husband, and that individual marriage exists, 
though in a slightly modified form. 

The right of access to a woman exercised at the time 
of her marriage, as practised among the Arunta, is 
simply a religious duty for the purpose of removing the 
danger attached to the sacredness of sexual intercourse, 
and not a survival of a primitive promiscuity. It may, 
with greater propriety, be classed with " priestly deflor- 
ation " than with the barbarous practice known as 
" jus primae noctis," said by some — though upon in- 
sufficient evidence — to have prevailed in Europe in 
feudal times. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 65 

Polygyny, the union of one man with more than one 
woman, is much more common than polyandry, though 
less frequent than monogamy. Very careful ob- 
servation is necessary to distinguish between polygamy 
proper and modified monogamy. Messrs. Spencer and 
Gillen, for instance, state that "individual marriage 
does not exist either in name or in practice in the Ura- 
bunna tribe," * whereas, it has been demonstrated 
above, that in their marital relations the people in 
question practise a modified form of monogamy. The 
fact is that polygyny has never been adopted by more 
than a small minority of any people. Even where it 
has been sanctioned by custom or the civil law, the vast 
majority of the population has been monogamous. 
The reasons are obvious : there are not sufficient women 
to provide every man with several wives, nor are the 
majority of men able or even desirous to support more 
than one wife. Hence polygynous marriages are found 
for the most part among kings, chiefs, and rich men ; as, 
to wit, the " 700 princesses and 300 concubines " of 
Solomon in the days of Israel's prosperity. 2 In the 
most primitive society polygyny is almost unknown, 
because hunting and fishing are the chief means of 
livelihood, and female labour has not the value that 
attaches to it when a man's wives can be employed in 
tending flocks, cultivating fields and performing handi- 
crafts. As wealth increases the practice becomes more 
general, till in a still higher stage of culture it tends to 
give way to monogamy. 

Westermarck has admirably summed up the whole 
situation by saying : " It is not, of course, impossible 
that, among some peoples, intercourse among the sexes 
may have been almost promiscuous. But there is not 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 63. 

2 1 Kings xi. 3. — The threescore queens and fourscore con- 
cubines of Songs vi. 8 is a more probable estimate. 



66 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

a shred of genuine evidence for the notion that promis- 
cuity ever formed a general stage in the history of 
mankind. . . . Although polygamy occurs among most 
existing peoples, and polyandry among some, mono- 
gamy is by far the most common form of human mar- 
riage. It was so among the ancient peoples of whom we 
have any direct knowledge. Monogamy is the form 
which is generally recognized and permitted. The 
great majority of peoples are, as a rule, monogamous, 
and the other forms of marriage are usually modified 
in a monogamous direction. We may without hesita- 
tion assert that, if mankind advances in the same direc- 
tion as hitherto ; if, consequently, the causes to which 
monogamy in the most progressive societies owes its 
origin continues to operate with constantly growing 
force ; if especially altruism increases, and the feeling 
of love becomes more refined, and more exclusively 
directed to one — the laws of monogamy can never be 
changed, but must be followed more strictly than they 
are now." x 

The institution of marriage is founded on the require- 
ment of man's nature. If it be granted that human 
nature is Divinely ordered, it follows that marriage 
must have been " ordained by God.'T aking the word 
natural in its full sense, monogamy is the only natural 
form of marriage, and therefore the race has universally 
approved it because it is in harmony with man's nature. 
In all stages of culture it has been found that it is not 
good for man to be alone. As a mere individual he can 
hardly exist, and certainly cannot fulfil his purpose in 
the world. Man is, in the words of Aristotle, " naturally 
a civil animal." Some kind of community is necessary 
for him to live the fulness of his life, and therefore mar- 
riage is not an artificial regulation of civilized society, 
but a natural necessity in all ages of man's terrestrial 
1 " History of Human Marriage," pp. 133, 459, 510. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 67 

history. Were the human species constituted as the 
lower animals a merely passing union of the sexes would 
suffice ; but more than this is required. The offspring 
requires long continued care after birth. A parallel is, 
of course, found in the case of some other animals, but 
in a less degree. Child-bearing in the human organism 
continues for some time, while the elder children are 
growing to maturity, whereas in other animals the young 
are usually independent of the mother before other 
offspring are born. The connexion of human parents, 
therefore, is indefinitely prolonged, extending beyond 
the age of child-bearing. As a consequence of this 
prolonged intimacy there appears the phenomenon of 
human love independent of sexual desire. In the 
same way the parental and filial affections of the human 
species pass the bounds of mere devoted care, as seen 
in the case of the lower animals, which terminates 
with the period of protection. 

Marriage is, then, the permanent connexion of man 
and woman, and as such it is natural in origin, though 
religious and Divine in purpose. It is sacred, being in- 
tended primarily to perpetuate life. Its secondary ends 
are the " mutual society, help and comfort that the one 
ought to have of the other in prosperity and adversity," 
as well as a lawful remedy of concupiscence. But if 
marriage is " the permanent living together of man 
and woman " in a natural relationship — a statement 
in complete accord with anthropological evidence as 
well as with Christian tradition — it therefore follows 
that it is indissoluble. A momentary connexion suffices 
for the purposes of procreation, but the community 
spirit and instincts of parentage and human love are all 
against a partial union of man and woman. " For this 
cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall 
be joined unto his wife, and they twain shall be one 
flesh " is the underlying principle of marital relations 



68 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

in all ages of culture. Even among such people as the 
Arunta, marriage, and, except on rare occasions, sexual 
intercourse, is only allowed between those who are in a 
totemic blood relationship, and therefore, in a sense, 
" one flesh." In more advanced society this conception 
is remarkably clear. Thus, among the Orang Benuas 
a marriage is solemnized by one of the old men making 
the following declaration : " Listen all ye that are 
present ; those that were distant are now brought 
together ; those that were separated are now united." x 
This permanent union of husband and wife raises 
man above the lower animals by constituting the family 
system. Thus, as Bishop Westcott says : " The Family 
includes three primal factors : husband and wife, parent 
and child, brother and sister. And these three relations 
reveal the essential law of all human fellowship. They 
are . . . the original sacraments of society." It is, of 
course, only in the higher stages of culture that the 
ideals of marriage are actually realized. The mono- 
gamic and indissoluble properties of the rite were by 
no means clearly defined in pre-Christian times. Even 
among the Hebrews polygamous marriage was tolerated 
and the right of dismissal allowed. Christ revoked the 
dispensations granted in the Mosaic Law by assigning 
the origin of the union to the Divine order of things, 
thus raising marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. 
He was content to describe the beginning of the institu- 
tion in the language of the book of Genesis, probably 
because this was the only origin known to the Jews to 
whom He was speaking. It was His custom to take 
His opponents on their own ground and by judicious 
questions arouse their consciences to confess that if only 
they followed out their own beliefs to their legitimate 
conclusions they must accept His teaching. But it 
does not follow that He meant to endorse the correct- 
1 Newbolt, " British Settlements in Malacca," ii., p. 407. 



PRIVATE RITES: MARRIAGE 69 

ness of those beliefs in their entirety. 1 It would be out 
of place here to enter upon any discussion of the mys- 
terious question of the limitations of Christ's knowledge 
in His life on earth. But it is undoubtedly " easier to 
conceive of our Lord using this sort of arugment, if we 
accept the position that He, the very God, habitually 
spoke in His incarnate life on earth under the limita- 
tions of a properly human consciousness." 2 

Christ asserts that the union is in one flesh — " And 
they twain shall become one flesh ; so then they are 
no more twain, but one flesh " (St. Mark x. 8). The 
result of such Divine joining is that man may not put 
it asunder. The Christian Church has therefore upheld 
the sanctity of marriage, and at all times forbidden both 
polygamy and divorce, though in other respects it took 
over the rites of pagan Rome and Christianized them. 

The essence of marriage according to modern custom 
is the mutual consent of the contracting parties, where- 
by, in the presence of witnesses, they accept one another 
as husband and wife. But as this may be a civil con- 
tract, Christian people naturally seek the benediction 
of the Church, that the alliance may become Holy 
matrimony. In the primitive Church the Christian 
element in the rite was the celebration of the Eucharist 
with a special benediction of the wedded pair. Thus, 
Tertullian says : " Unde sufhciamus ad enarrandam 
felicitatem ejus matrimonii quod ecclesia conciliat, et 
confirmat oblatio, et obsignat benedictio, angeli renun- 
tiant, Pater rato habet ? " The Nuptial Mass thus took 
the place of the sacrifice to the gods. The Roman 
(pagan) rite consisted of (I) Sponsalia (betrothal) : (a) 
Arrhae (presents) ; (b) the kiss ; (c) the giving of the 
ring ; (d) joining of hands. (II) Conferreatio (wedding 
proper) : (e) blood sacrifice to the gods ; (/) veiling ; 

1 Cf. Sanday, " Bampton Lectures," p. 419. 

2 Gore, " Bampton Lectures," p. 198. 



70 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

(g) crowning with flowers ; (h) prayers ; (i) partaking 
of the sacrificial cake. Then followed the procession 
and the coena nuptialis. 

The Christian office, as described by Pope Nicholas I 
in a.d. 866, bears a striking resemblance to the heathen 
rite. The order was as follows : (a) Sponsalia ; (b) 
Subarrhatio (giving of the ring) ; (c) conveyance of the 
dowry by attested documents ; (d) the Nuptial Mass 
with the communion of the bridal pair ; (e) solemn 
Benediction, with the veil held over them ; (/) crowning 
as they leave the Church. 

The Sarum " Ordo ad faciendum Sponsalia " consisted 
in the Espousal, Twofold Benediction and the Nuptial 
Mass, in which, after the Fracture, the solemn Benedic- 
tion was given. The first two sections were practically 
reproduced in the 1549 Prayer Book, and the Nuptial 
Mass was replaced by the rubric regarding the reception 
of Holy Communion at or immediately after the mar- 
riage. 



CHAPTER V 
PRIVATE RITES : DEATH 

The fear of death and the dangerous condition of the dead — 
Dieri rites — Customs among the Kurnai — The Bret — The Wot- 
jobaluk — Roasting the dead in South Australia — The Arunta 
ceremonies — The Urpmilchina ceremony — Burial customs 
among the Northern tribes of Central Australia — Reincarnation 
The belief of the Wathi-Wathi — The conception of body and 
soul — Immortality — Evidence from Palaeolithic remains of a 
life after death — Neolithic interments — " Soul houses " in 
Egypt — Orientation — Funeral feasts — Sacrifice for the sins of 
the departed — Communion with the dead — The Communion 
of Saints. 

THE horror of death is a universal phenomenon, 
and everywhere contact with a corpse renders 
a person tabu. Therefore the greatest care 
has to be exercised in approaching or dealing with a 
dead body. Even a warrior who has slain an enemy 
in battle is not exempt from ritual purification. So 
contagious is the tabu that the prohibitions consequent 
on a death extend to the whole house, the whole family, 
the whole clan, the whole village, even to the fields 
and sometimes to the skies. The Jewish Law enacted 
that " whosoever is unclean by the dead : both male 
and female, shall be put out, without the camp shall 
ye put them ; that they defile not their camps, in the 
midst whereof Yahweh dwells " (Num. v. 2, 3). A 
high priest might on no account " go into any dead 
body " (Lev. xxi. 11). The " Sacred Books of the 

71 



jz PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

East " proclaim the same tabu. 1 He who has touched 
a corpse is " powerless in mind, tongue and hand." 
For this reason a dead body was buried by night in 
Rome and Greece, lest it should pollute not only man 
but even the sunlight. All persons present at a Roman 
funeral were sprinkled with lustral water and caused 
to step over a fire. Such customs as these, prevalent 
in an advanced stage of culture, show how deeply rooted 
in the human mind is the conception of the tabu at- 
tached to a corpse. 

In rites connected with death two aspects are appa- 
rent. On the one hand there is the fear of death and of 
the dangerous condition of the dead. On the other 
hand there is the affection for the deceased, which be- 
wails his departure. For, as Spencer and Gillen arc 
careful to point out in connexion with the Australian 
burial customs, the savage " is certainly capable of 
genuine grief and of real affection for his children." 2 

When one of the Dieri is dying his relations separate 
into two groups. The first group, consisting of near 
relatives, sit down close to the dying man ; the other 
group, made up of more distant connexions, remain 
at some distance from him, and carefully avoid seeing 
his face, lest they should be drawn to the spirit world 
by the departing soul, or have a great longing for the 
deceased. After death the mourners wail for hours 
and smear their bodies with pipe-clay. The women 
and children leave the camp, the men pull down the 
hut of the deceased, the body is prepared for burial by 
tying the big toes together and fastening the thumbs 
behind the back and enveloping the corpse in a rug or 
net. This is supposed to prevent his " walking." 
Meanwhile the men of the second group dig the grave 
in a sandhill, where it is easy to dig. Eight men take 

1 " Zend Avesta," Pt. I, p. 120. 

2 "Native Tribes," p. 511. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 73 

the corpse on their heads to the grave. The corpse is 
questioned by an old man, who beats rods together, as 
to who was the cause of his death, that is, by magic. 
The men sitting round act as interpreters for the de- 
ceased, and according as opinion prevails the name of 
some native of another tribe is given. The body is 
then removed from the heads of the bearers, and is 
lowered into the grave. Howitt, quoting from Gason — ■ 
a rather doubtful authority — adds that " an old man 
who is in the relation of kami to the deceased steps into 
the grave and cuts off all the fat adhering to the face, 
thighs, arms and stomach, and passes it round to be 
swallowed by the relations. The mother eats of her 
children, and the children of their mother, a man eats 
of his sister's husband, and of his brother's wife ; 
mother's brothers, mother's sisters, sister's children, 
mother's parents or daughter's children are also eaten 
of ; but the father does not eat of his children, nor the 
children of their sire." 1 

Among the Kurnai, when a man dies, his relatives 
roll him up in an opossum rug and enclose it in a sheet 
of bark, cording it tightly. A hut is built over it, and 
in this the mourning relatives collect. The corpse is 
placed in the centre and as many of the relatives as can 
find room lie with their heads on it, lamenting their loss, 
saying, for instance, " Why did he leave us ? " Now 
and then ear-piercing wails are uttered by near relatives, 
who would also cut and gash themselves with sharp 
stones, tomahawks, etc. These violent expressions of 
grief continue for several days, and then the corpse is 
examined, the hair plucked off the whole body and 
preserved in small opossum bags. The body is again 
rolled up, and not uncovered till decomposition has set 
in sufficiently as to enable the survivors to anoint them- 
selves with oil exuded from it. This custom, together 
1 " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," p. 449. 



74 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

with that practised by the Dieri of eating a portion of 
the corpse, is probably adopted as a means of attaining 
communion with the dead person. The body in its 
bark cerements accompanies the family on its wander- 
ings, till finally, after several years — it having by this 
time become merely a bag of bones — it is buried or put 
into a hollow tree. 

Sometimes the father or mother carries a lower jaw 
as a memento, a custom corresponding to the Bret 
or dead-hand ceremony frequently practised by the 
Kurnai. This consists in cutting off one hand of the 
corpse or both hands soon after death, which are wrapped 
in grass and dried. A string of opossum fur is attached 
to it, so that it can be hung round the neck and worn 
in contact with the bare skin, and under the left arm, by 
parent, child, brother or sister. It is supposed to warn 
the wearer of the approach of an enemy by pinching 
him. The way the adversary is coming is indicated by. 
the direction of the vibration of the hand. 1 Apart 
from this utilitarian use, the bret is no doubt regarded 
as a bond of union with the departed. 

When a man of the Wotjobaluk tribe dies he is corded 
up with his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms crossed, 
under which his spear-thrower is placed. He is then 
rolled up in his opossum rug. An oblong grave is dug 
about four feet in depth, at the bottom of which a sheet 
of bark is placed, and on this leaves, covered with strands 
of opossom pelt, to make a soft bed for the deceased. 
More leaves and pelt are laid on the corpse and over it 
bark, and then the earth. Logs are placed on the grave 
to prevent dogs interfering with it. A fire is then lighted 
at the grave for the ghost to warm himself, and the rela- 
tives return to their camps. On the following day they 
revisit the grave and clear an oval space, about thirty 

1 Howitt, " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," pp. 
459, 460. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 75 

paces in diameter. After this they forsake the place 
for several months. Small fires, believed to be lighted 
by the ghost, are thought to be seen at the grave by 
night at times. 

The tribes in the district about Adelaide, Gawler and 
Gumeracha bury the dead in a straight position, 
wrapped up in a Wallaby rug, and packed comfortably 
with leaves and tender boughs. The body is placed 
on a bier and the hole dug with the women's sticks. 
The heap is supposed to contain the wingka or breath 
which is set free by loosening the soil. The bier is made 
of ten or twelve branches arranged like the hub of a 
wheel ; when they come near a large tree they rest 
the bier against it, probably in order to allow the spirit 
of the dead man to pass into the tree ; for here it is 
believed that the dead live in trees. 

The Encounter Bay tribe of South Australia roast 
their dead before burial, and, in the Obens River dis- 
trict of Victoria, the bodies of married people are burned. 
In New South Wales the corpses of old men are burned, 
but the young are buried. South of the Gulf of Car- 
pentaria the body is enclosed in a net, so that the head 
points northwards. The deceased's property is usually 
destroyed by fire, though occasionally it is distributed 
among his tribal brethren. 

In the North of Queensland, as a rule, the body is 
exposed on a platform, or the flesh eaten, or the body 
is buried and the bones subsequently exhumed. The 
disposal of the bones is the main funeral ceremony and 
is often reserved for favoured individuals, as warriors, 
magicians, etc. The knee-cap is removed before the 
corpse is placed in the grave, or the body is buried 
head-downwards, to prevent the ghost returning to 
trouble the relatives. 1 

Among the Arunta the body is buried very soon after 
1 N. W. Thomas, " The Natives of Australia," chap. xii. 



76 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

death. It is placed in a sitting position with the knees 
doubled up against the chin, and is thus interred in a 
round hole in the ground, the earth being piled directly 
on to the body. The mound thus formed is always 
made on the side facing the direction of the deceased's 
camping ground in the Alcheringa. The object of this 
is to allow every ingress and egress to the Ulthana or 
spirit, which is supposed to spend part of its time watch- 
ing over near relatives, part in the grave and part in 
company with its Arambiiringa or spiritual double, 
who lives at the Nanja spot. A man's hair is cut off, 
and his armlets, necklaces and fur string carefully pre- 
served. Among the witchetty grub people Churinga, 
supposed to represent the eggs of the grub in the Alcher- 
inga, are buried with a man. 

As soon as burial has taken place, the camp in which 
the death has occurred is at once burnt down, and all 
the contents destroyed. The whole of the local en- 
campment is then shifted to a new place. Among the 
Warramunga the body is placed on a platform made 
of boughs until the flesh has disappeared, when the 
bones, except those used as pointing bones, are buried. 

During the twelve or eighteen months of mourning 
the Arunta never mention the name of the deceased, 
unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and then only 
in a whisper for fear of disturbing his spirit. If the 
Ulthana, or ghost form, hears his name mentioned he 
concludes that his relatives are not properly mourning 
for him, since it would cause them too much pain to 
hear his name uttered. He shows his displeasure by 
troubling them in their sleep. Some relatives may 
never mention his name. Others are permitted to speak 
of the deceased when the time of mourning is over. In 
this latter the Arunta differ from some of the other 
Australian tribes. Widows in some tribes are not 
allowed to speak for a certain period after the death of 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 77 

their husband. During this time of " deep mourning " 
she smears her face, hair and breasts with pipe-clay. 

After the lapse of twelve or eighteen months the cere- 
mony of Urpmilchina is performed at the grave. (The 
meaning of the term is " trampling the twigs on the 
grave.") The widow is again painted with pipe-clay, 
white being the colour of mourning among the natives. 
The women then approach the Gammona (mother's 
brothers) uttering the characteristic wail, led by the 
widow carrying the Chimurilia — a chaplet made of small 
animal bones collected from various sources, attached 
to locks of hair obtained from female relatives of the 
dead man. Standing behind each man, the widow 
thrusts the pitchi — a hollowed trough used for carrying 
food and water — under the arms and on the laps of each 
in turn, embracing him from behind. The sons of the 
Gammona, or their sons, start off for the grave. About 
midway they are met by the eldest son of the deceased's 
eldest brother, and a halt is made. Taking the Chimu- 
rilia from the pitchi he approaches certain of the male 
relatives of the dead man, and embraces them all in 
turn, pressing, as he does so, the Chimurilia against 
their stomachs. Then he places one Chimurilia on the 
head of the widow and the other on that of a younger 
sister of the dead man, and fur string rings and parrot 
feathers on the other women. The man who superin- 
tends this part of the proceedings leads the way. First 
the party visit the camp where the man died and dance 
round the charred remains. This over, they set out for 
the grave at a run, in a circuit, shouting loudly. Al- 
though the native can give no explanation, the idea 
is probably that the spirit is frightened by the noise 
and the Chimurilia, and is prevented from returning 
to the camp from which they are supposed to be driving 
him, by making the circuit. Thus, he is forced to take 
refuge at the bottom of the grave. 



78 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

This view of Spencer and Gillen is supported by the 
fact that the leader jumps and dances on the grave as 
soon as he reaches it — a performance carried on by 
the rest of the party excepting by certain of the women. 
When the twigs forming the covering to the grave are 
thoroughly broken up the dancing ceases, the widow 
and the other women cleaning up the debris. The 
women who had not taken part in the dancing now 
approach the grave and strike and cut their heads until 
the blood flows on to the grave. The Chimurilia, etc., 
are then torn in pieces and the remains placed in a hole 
dug by the widow on the top of the grave. The men 
and women then prostrate themselves on the grave for a 
few minutes, the widow wipes off the pipe-clay to show 
that her mourning is at an end. If she is anxious to 
marry again she paints a narrow white band on her 
forehead. 

The spirit of the dead man is supposed to watch these 
proceedings from the bottom of the grave. He knows 
that he has been properly mourned for having been 
through similar ceremonies during his lifetime. The 
broken Chimurilia is left at the grave to act as a per- 
petual memorial of this fact, lest he should forget and 
trouble the survivors in consequence. He may still 
watch over his friends, guard them from harm, and 
visit them in dreams, but he must not come in such 
a way as to frighten them. 1 

A corresponding ceremony takes place in the case of 
a woman. The actual mother of the deceased takes 
the part of the widow. 

In the tribes to the north of the Arunta — the Unmat- 
jera, Kaitish, Warramunga, Tjingilli, etc. — earth burial 
is preceded by tree burial, except in the case of old 
women and very old men, who are buried at once in 
the earth. When a man dies his gammona and itia 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 497-51 1. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 79 

(younger brother) carry the body to a tree a mile or 
two away from the camp, accompanied by the unkulla 
(father's sister's son) and the mura women of the dead 
man. A platform of boughs is made, and the unkulla 
standing on this receives the body from the gammona 
and itia and cover it with fresh boughs. They then all 
return to the camp, and the grave is carefully avoided 
for some time. The gammona cut themselves upon the 
shoulder, the actual father of the deceased cuts off 
and burns his whiskers and moustache, and the itia 
cuts off and burns the hair from the head of the widow. 
This is done to avoid the pain the sight of it must give 
to the itia, knowing as he does that the dead man has 
seen it so often. The widow is also bound to constantly 
cover her body with ashes during the time of her 
mourning, and to keep the ban of silence till released from 
it by the itia, after many months. When this takes 
place she makes him an offering of food, with a fragment 
of which he touches her mouth. There is no Urpmil- 
china ceremony among the northern tribes of central 
Australia. 

After some months, when all the flesh has disap- 
peared from the bones, the remains are buried by the 
gammona, the head facing his gammona's Alcheringa 
camp, or, in the case of a woman, the head faces the 
camp of her mother. The dead man's spirit is now 
supposed to go away and remain in the Alcheringa spot 
till it is reincarnated. In these tribes the widow 
usually becomes the wife of the dead man's younger 
brother, when the mourning is over. This custom, 
sometimes called the " levirate law," is found among 
the Jews (Deuteronomy xxv. 5) and other oriental 
nations, and is common in people in a primitive state of 
culture. 

According to Spencer and Gillen reincarnation con- 
stitutes the Australian belief as to a future life. This 



80 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AMD BELIEF 

conclusion has been questioned by Strehlow. 1 In the 
present state of our knowledge it is impossible to dog- 
matize on the subject. Strehlow, however, reports 
two Aranda beliefs, which certainly appear to support 
his view that the germ — ralapa — issues from the body of 
a totemic ancestor, or that an ancestor throws a small 
bull-roarer at a woman, in whose body it changes to a 
child. They also believe in an island of the dead, from 
which a spirit returns for temporary reincarnation, 
lasting for a year or two, and is finally annihilated ; 
and that the good dead live with Altjira, the sky being. 
These facts taken collectively make the Spencer and 
Gillen theory very doubtful. 

The Australian is less concerned with eschatological 
problems than many people in a primitive state of cul- 
ture. Like all other aborigines he believes that death 
is the result of evil magic practised by an enemy, and 
must if possible be avenged, only too often on the inno- 
cent. It has been seen that the method of the disposal 
of the remains are many and various, almost every tribe 
having its own customs. The most general manner 
employed is that of burial in a prepared grave, although 
even in this case there is a difference, for some tribes 
lay the corpse out in an extended attitude, while others 
cord it together with knees drawn up to the chin and 
the arms crossed on the breast. The body is often orien- 
tated according to the totem to which the deceased 
belongs. Weapons are placed beside the body, except 
in such cases as it is deemed expedient to let the soul 
enter the spirit world unarmed. The grave is made as 
comfortable as possible that the spirit may not wish 
to wander about. Heavy stones are not infrequently 
placed on the grave to render untoward peregrinations 
difficult. As a rule the grave is dug near the camp, 
though there are exceptions even to this. 

1 " Globus," xci., p. 285 ; xcii., p. 123. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 81 

There is nothing in the nature of a cult of ancestors. 
The dead are feared, certain powers are ascribed to 
them, such as sending rain, raising storms, procuring 
a good catch of fish. They are also frequently invoked 
but not as ancestors. The belief of the Wathi-Wathi, 
on the Lower Murray, is amongst the most complex. 
They say that the spirit starts for the sky when it leaves 
the body ; another spirit gives it instructions as to the 
way to be taken. There are two roads, one clean, the 
other dirty ; the dirty is the right one, for the other 
is only kept clean by bad spirits in the hope of tempting 
men to follow it. Then the spirit meets a woman, who 
tries to seduce it ; then two women with a skipping 
rope, the woman on the clean side being blind. Then 
on both roads is a deep pit from which flames arise, but 
a good spirit can clear it at a jump. Two old women 
take care of it. Then the god Thalathapuli comes to 
try the spirit's strength, and throws nulla-nulla at a 
meteor which is an emu. 1 

Rites connected with death and burial set forth certain 
primitive conceptions of the separation of body and 
soul, of the fears, hopes, beliefs entertained about the 
dead, as to their future, and their relations with the 
living. There can be little doubt that a very powerful 
ritual motive is to be found in the fear of death as a 
mysterious phenomenon rendering the corpse an exceed- 
ingly dangerous object to the living. This probably 
plays a greater part in the mourning rites than actual 
grief for the loss of a relative. Thus among the Arunta 
a widow is placed under a ban of silence because she 
belongs to a dangerous class of society till the time of 
her mourning is ended. Frazer mentions a similar 
instance among the Maoris. " Any one," he says, 
" who had handled a corpse, helped to convey it to the 
grave or touched a dead man's bones, was cut off from 
1 " Natives of Australia," p. 204. 

6 



82 PRIMITIVE RITUAL A"ND BELIEF 

all intercourse and almost all communication with 
mankind. He could not enter any house or come in 
contact with any person or thing without utterly be- 
devilling them. He might not even touch food with 
his hands which had become so frightfully tabooed or 
unclean as to be quite useless." x 

Therefore although savages are capable of very real 
grief at the death of a kinsman, yet mourning cere- 
monies must be regarded more as a sign of tabu than 
of sorrow. The self-inflicted pain and loud lamentings 
are also probably not outward expressions of mental 
agony. It is much more likely that these are tribal 
customs which have to be performed to avoid greater 
ills that might be inflicted upon the living by the dead. 

In all stages of culture man seems to have realized 
that he is composed of two separate entities — body and 
soul. The soul may separate from the body before 
death, as in dreams, sickness, etc. The distinction be- 
tween such a separation and death is that the latter is 
final. But primitive people cannot conceive of the 
survival of a man's soul apart from a semi-material 
existence. The dead must continue the life they lived 
while in the flesh. For this reason offerings of food 
and drink are made at the grave, the killing and burying 
alive of slaves and wives with the corpse together with 
weapons, dead horses, etc. Many other observances 
of a like nature take place that are matters of such com- 
mon knowledge that they do not require enumeration 
here. 

There is, however, a very important question inti- 
mately connected with these customs, which testifies 
to a universal belief in immortality. It has been 
asserted by certain archaeologists that, in view of nega- 
tive evidence on the subject, prehistoric man neither 
buried his dead nor believed in a life after death. This 
1 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. ii., p. 138. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 83 

unwarranted assumption has, however, been entirely 
disproved by recent excavations. 

On August 3, 1907, a grave was discovered at La 
Chapelle aux Saints in which the skeleton lay on its back 
from east to west. Around it were a quantity of Mous- 
terian implements, fragments of ochre and broken bones, 
while over the head were several long bones of an ox lying 
flat, one of them still in connexion with some smaller 
bones of the foot and toes, so as to suggest that it was 
still clothed with flesh when it was placed in this 
position. This was evidently a ceremonial interment, 
accompanied by offerings of food and implements for 
the use of the deceased in the spirit world. 1 

On March 7, 1909, another Palaeolithic interment was 
found at the well-known site at Le Moustier. The body 
— that of a youth about sixteen years of age — lay on 
its right side with the right arm bent so as to support 
the head on a pillow of flints, and the left arm extended. 
Within easy reach of the latter lay a magnificent oval- 
shaped implement, worked on both sides, while burnt 
bones and flints were disposed about the skull. There 
is little doubt that man in these remote days believed 
in a life after death, for in what other way can be 
explained the placing of weapons, food-offerings, etc., 
in the grave ? Furthermore, the fact that these inter- 
ments with funeral rites have been so circumstantially 
carried out, suggests that they were founded on an 
already established cult of the dead. This conclusion 
will be placed beyond dispute if archaeologists can 
eventually prove that the interment at Galley Hill 
is really of early Pleistocene antiquity. Even in the 
present state of our knowledge there is little ground for 
the theory put forth by Mr. F. H. Capron and others 

1 " L' Anthropologic," 713, xxiv., pp. 609-634. Sollas, "Ancient 
Hunters," pp. 180, 181, 



84 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

that Palaeolithic man was, in reality, merely a tool- 
making animal devoid of a spiritual nature. 1 If the 
soul was the result of an inbreathing of " the breath of 
life " in post-Neolithic times, Palaeolithic man in the 
Mousterian phase and later would not have practised 
rites which point to his having a somewhat definite 
conception of a life after death. 

The skeletons found in the Aurignacian caves at 
Mentone supply additional evidence for the assumption 
that funeral rites were practised in the Palaeolithic age. 
Here again implements and red ochre were buried with 
the bodies. In some cases the interment was made over 
a hearth, in others in a grave or rudimentary tomb 
made by placing flat stones on edge for the wall and 
roofing it over with larger slabs. The skeletons, all of 
which show Cro-Magnon features, were adorned with a 
necklace made of the teeth of deer, vertebrae of fish 
and carved pendants. No doubt these adornments 
were part of the burial rites. The Magdalenian remains 
found at Laugine-Basse and the Azilian site at Ofnet 
show that similar customs were in use at the close of 
the Palaeolithic age. - At Ofnet twenty-seven skulls 
were orientated in the same direction, looking towards 
the setting sun. By- Neolithic times the evidence for 
ceremonial interments is overwhelming. 

When these prehistoric interments are compared 
with the funeral rites of the Bushmen the conclusion 
that Palaeolithic man believed in a life after death is 
placed beyond doubt. Among these primitive people 
the body of the deceased is painted with red ochre and 
grease, and buried facing the east. His bow and arrow 
■ — corresponding to the flint implements found in Palaeo- 
lithic interments — is laid by his side. 

The religion of primeval man may justly be said to 
involve a belief in intercourse between mankind and 
1 " Conflict of Truth," chaps, xvii. and xviii. 



PRIVATE RITES : DEATH 85 

the supernatural world. It may also be assumed from 
the placing of weapons, ornaments, etc., along with 
food for the journey of the soul to the unseen world, 
that prehistoric man, like other primitive people, 
regarded life beyond the grave as a continuation of life 
on earth. 1 As such he looked forward to it with hope- 
ful anticipation. Thus, the tumuli to be found all over 
Europe are regular houses of the dead modelled on the 
plan of those they occupied in life. The greater the 
dignity of the deceased the loftier his barrow. There 
is little doubt that there was but one prevailing motive 
in the whole system of the evolution of the grave from 
the hole in the earth, through the barrows, dolmens, 
cromlechs, and so on, to the elaborately constructed 
chambered cairn. The grave was considered as the 
temporary abode of the spirit, that was supposed to 
hover around the corpse till decomposition had been 
completed. This period constituted an intermediate 
state between life on earth and that of the spirit world. 

It is generally thought that fire was known, even in 
those early days, as a purifying agent. Thus is ex- 
plained the number of bodies partially burnt that have 
been found in remains predating the era of cremation. 
In course of time this idea gave place to that of the 
complete destruction of the body by fire in order to 
hasten the liberation of the soul from its fleshly entan- 
glement. 

In Egyptian entombments of the twelfth to the 
fourteenth dynasties " soul houses " were furnished 
with a couch and table for the use of the ka — the activi- 
ties of sense and perception : an idea closely associated 
with the material body it embodied — where it came 
above ground to eat or drink. Furthermore, the ba> 
or disembodied soul, is represented as flying in and out 

1 Cf. The beakers and food vessels commonly found in Neo- 
lithic interments. 



86 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 
of the tomb and acquiring offerings of food which were 
put, in prehistoric times, round the body, and in later 
years in specially prepared store chambers built of brick. 

The position of the corpse as laid in the grave is also a 
matter of no small importance in almost all races and 
tribes. Among primitive people the crouching position 
is usually chosen because this is the natural posture 
of rest during life, where chairs, bedsteads, etc., are 
unknown. The direction in which the body points 
varies with the position of the region in which their 
future will be spent. In the same barrows skeletons 
have been found differently orientated, the reason for 
the variations being by no means clear. The Watjo- 
baluk tribe of Australia bury their dead with the head 
towards the point of the compass appropriate to each 
man's totem. 1 This arrangement is unique. The more 
general custom is that adopted by the Ngeumba of 
New South Wales, who bury with the head towards sun- 
rise. 2 The Melanesians place the head of the corpse 
turned inland ; 3 the Polynesians (Fijians and Samoans) 
towards the far west whither their souls have preceded 
them. The Christian Church has followed the custom 
of laying the dead looking to the east, because it is the 
attitude of prayer, and because at the last trump the 
soul is supposed to hurry eastwards. Christians never 
burned their dead, but followed from the first the 
Semitic practice of interment. That the corpses of 
the martyrs were often burned by their persecutors to 
render the resurrection of the body impossible is obvious 
from " Octavius," the dialogue of Minucius Felix, in 
which the writer refutes the assertion that cremation 

ade resurrection an impossibility : " Nee, ut creditis 
ullum damnum sepulturse timemus sed veterem et 



1 Howitt, p. 453. 2 Matthews, " New South Wales," p. 72. 
3 Codrington, " Melanesians," p. 254. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 87 

meliorem consuetudinem humandi frequentamus." 1 
St. Ambrose made a curious mistake when he described 
what he thought to be skeletons of the martyrs Gerva- 
sius and Protasius, as stained with the blood of martyr- 
dom — •" Hie sanguis clamat coloris indicio." Solomon 
Reinach has rightly divined that St. Ambrose realty 
hit on a prehistoric tomb of red earth, so chosen because 
demons flee from red ! 

Not only has the soul to be fed at regular intervals, 
but, in primitive culture, a feast invariably forms part 
of the funeral rites. Sometimes it is kept up for days 
or repeated at stated intervals. The Ainu mourners 
return to the hut pray, eat, drink and get helplessly 
intoxicated. 2 Among the Uriya of Orissa the feast 
occupies several days. The Nicobar Islanders hold a 
feast at the grave " in the presence of the dead," after 
the funeral. 3 The object of these feasts is not simply 
an act of hospitality to the invited guests, but a meal 
of communion with or in the dead, or a sacrificial feast 
on the flesh of the victims slain in atonement of the 
deceased's sins. Mr. E. S. Hartland sees in the common 
meal " the pledge and witness of the unity of the kin, 
the chief means, if not of making, at least of repairing 
and renewing it." 4 That the custom is not merely a 
social act is shown in the case of the Ainu practice of 
holding the first formal meal in the presence of the 
corpse. The fact that the dead man is thought to be 
present and taking part in the proceeding is well shown 
by Codrington. In various Melanesian islands the 
name of the dead is pronounced at the feast and the 
chief mourner throws aside some food for the deceased, 
saying, " This is for you." 

The flesh provided at these banquets is sometimes 

1 " Patres Latini," iii., p. 362. 2 Batchelor, " Ainus," p. 559. 
3 " Intern. Archiv. fur Ethnographie," vi., p. 25. 
* " Legend of Perseus," ii., p. 278. 



88 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

that of the dead man himself, as in the instances quoted 
by Howitt concerning the Dieri rites. The same is re- 
ported of the natives of North Queensland, and in many 
other parts of the world, though indisputable evidence 
for cannibal sacraments is by no means plentiful. The 
slaying and eating of animal victims at the grave is 
quite a common practice, as has been shown above. 
It may be, however, that the significance of this custom 
is not merely that the animals may accompany the dead 
man to the spirit world, but also that the survivors, by 
eating the flesh of the victim whose blood and soul the 
dead has consumed, may be sacramentally united to the 
deceased. 

In higher religious systems the offering becomes a 
vicarious sacrifice for the sins of the departed, and thus 
anticipates the primitive Christian custom of celebrating 
the Eucharist on behalf of the faithful departed on the 
anniversary of martyrdom or death from any other 
cause. 1 It is perhaps worthy of note that there still 
survives in the Coptic Church the practice of offering 
expiatory sacrifices of animals for the dead. No doubt 
the custom goes back to pre-Christian time in Egypt, 
when the relatives of the dead brought food offerings 
for the ka of the deceased. 

Professor Robertson Smith explains the mutilation 
of the body and garments of the living as constituting 
a bond of union between them and the dead. 2 It seems 
reasonable to suppose that by causing their blood to 
flow over the corpse or grave a " covenant in blood " 
is established. Conversely, other primitive people daub 
themselves with the blood, etc., of their dead kinsman, 
and thus incorporate in themselves a portion of the 

1 Tertullian, " De Cor.," iii. ; " de Monog.," x. Cyprian, Epp. 
xii., xxxiii., xxxvi., 2. 

2 " Religion of the Semites," p. 336. 



PRIVATE RITES: DEATH 89 

dead. For the same reason — viz., that of attaining a 
communion with the departed — bones, hands, locks of 
hair, etc., are retained by survivers. 

Parallel with the rite of dropping blood on the corpse 
is another mourning rite — that of cutting or tearing 
the hair and burying it with the body, or dedicating it at 
the grave. In the case of the Unmatjera, Kaitish and 
Warramunga tribes the hair is burnt instead of dedi- 
cated. The object of these rites, as with the dropping 
of blood, is to form a bond of union with the dead, so 
as to prevent him from inflicting any harm on the sur- 
vivors. It is quite possible that hair is thrown on the 
corpse for the same reason. 

Among primitive people reverence for the dead is 
associated with superstitious fear of the return of the 
spirit, and with the idea of the ritual impurity of the 
corpse. To these conceptions is added a belief in a 
further life of the double or soul in the Alcheringa or 
spirit world. Many and various rites have grown 
up round these doctrines. Graves have been duly 
honoured and tombs — at least those of heroes, saints, 
and martyrs — have become altars on which sacrifices 
and consecrated food, accompanied by prayers, are 
offered on their behalf or in their honour. It is not 
without significance that a slab placed over the burial 
place of a martyr served in very early times as a Chris- 
tian altar in the Roman catacombs and elsewhere. 
Furthermore, a bond of union was thought to be estab- 
lished between the living and the dead by a blood cove- 
nant, by the wearing or dedication of hair, bones, etc. 
Thus was anticipated the Christian doctrine of the 
communion of saints, wherein all the faithful, living and 
departed are united round a common Centre and in a 
common Fellowship. 

The universality of funeral rites bear witness to an 
innate belief in the immortality of the soul ; like modern 



go PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

science they teach that the human organism, being 
composed of matter, is indestructible. Death brings 
change but not extinction. " We shall all be changed " 
but not destroyed, is the universal cry. At death even 
the bodies of men do not cease to be, but only cease to 
be what they were. They continue, but they " never 
continue in one stay." 

Again, from earliest times it has been realized that 
man is not only body but spirit, and being spirit he can 
never rest satisfied in his material surroundings. At 
death he migrates to surroundings where he is acclima- 
tized to his spiritual being. He is spirit and can per- 
manently breathe only in a spiritual environment. Mr. 
Holman Hunt's picture of the " Triumph of the Inno- 
cents," in which he paints each child as still alive : each 
a spirit-child, one of a group of spirit-children, attend- 
ants on and serving the Christ-Child and His Mother, 
doing for them in their after life what shortness of days 
prevented their doing before, suggests how Christianity 
has uplifted and spiritualized the primitive conception 
of life beyond the grave. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE FOOD QUEST AND TOTEMISM 

Public rites — Economic rites — The magical control of the 
chase — The Aurignacian and Magdalenian cave-paintings — 
Bushmen and Indian art — Intichiuma ceremonies — The Witch- 
etty grub rites — The Urabunna ceremonies — The purpose of 
the spring rites. 

IN considering the question of primitive marriage 
it was seen that the natural attraction of human 
beings for one another has led them to associate 
themselves together in families. The necessity of pro- 
viding effective means of defence against enemies has 
compelled man to live together in a series of families 
constituting the clan or tribe. In such associations 
some form of organization arose as a matter of course. 
Customs and rules had to be devised whereby life and 
property were maintained and protected, the sexual 
relations regulated, and intercourse of man with the 
sacred world put on an ordered basis. It is with such 
matters as these that public rites are concerned, and 
therefore they assume, for the most part, a politico- 
economic character. To this aspect must be added 
the important class of rites that deal with sacrifice and 
communion. 

The first need of man in all stages of culture is a suffi- 

91 



92 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

cient supply of food, The savage thinks that this is to 
be obtained either by the application of what he con- 
ceives to be natural laws, or by appeal to superhuman 
powers. Among economic ceremonies may be distin- 
guished those that are " natural," and those in which 
a supernatural element enters, and those in which 
the two methods of procedure are combined. 

Notwithstanding the fact that primitive people are 
usually skilled hunters — in Australia and Polynesia 
there is no tribe unable to secure food by natural means — 
yet supernatural or magical influence invariably is 
brought to bear on the chase. As far back as the Aurig- 
nacian stage of the Palaeolithic period magical rites 
were apparently used for this purpose. The drawings 
of bisons, deer, and other Pleistocene animals discovered 
by the little daughter of Marcellino de Sautuola on the 
roof of a cave at Altamira in Spain are inexplicable 
except as a means whereby these ancient hunters could 
control the animals they were hunting. If the purpose 
of the paintings common at the end of the Aurignacian 
and during the whole of the Magdalenian culture periods 
were originally merely aesthetic, then they would not 
be likely to occur on the roof, and certainly not in the 
dark recesses of caverns, far removed from the light. 
M. Solomon Reinach points out that all the animals 
represented are such as are desirable for food. 1 Al- 
though his second* statement, that "undesirable" 
animals are not depicted, is not correct, since a lion, a 
bear, and a wolf have been found on the walls of Com- 
barelles, and a wolf at Font de Gaume, it by no means 
follows that these animals were not eaten by Palaeo- 
lithic Man. There seems little doubt that the meta- 
phorical " magic of the artist's pencil " had once a literal 
meaning. 

Various tribes in America and Australia depict animal 

1 " L'Anthrop.," vii., pp. 221-223. 



THE FOOD QUEST AND TOTEMISM 93 

forms in obscure parts of caves. Mr. F. H. Cushing 
describes the images of totems carved out of stone by 
the Zuni Indians, with a flint arrow bound to the 
" fetiche." * This no doubt corresponds to the arrows 
painted on the side of the bison in Font de Gaume. 
The image is set apart for magical purposes at 
the New Year Festival. Every hunter carries the 
"fetiche" with him in the chase. Likewise among 
the Ojibwa Indians the medicine man makes a draw- 
ing of the animal to be hunted, and paints the heart 
in vermilion, drawing a line from it to the mouth, 
along which the magic is supposed to pass at his 
incantation. 2 Again, the paintings of the Bushmen, 
which bear a striking resemblance to those of the Aurig- 
nacian age, were for sympathetic magic rather than for 
aesthetic purposes. In the sandstone caves of the Natal 
Downs the Pegidloburra tribe make drawings of the 
emu and kangaroo, and incidents of the chase, and im- 
pressions of the hand daubed with red. 3 From an 
artistic point of view these sketches are inferior to those 
of Palaeolithic Man, and obviously belong to a different 
school from the Aurignacian, but, nevertheless, judging 
from similar decorations on Churinga, weapons and 
various objects used in sacred ceremonies, they must 
be magi co-religious in intent. 

The magical rites connected with hunting assume a 
relationship between man and beast. For this reason 
excuses are often made for killing an animal — especially 
if it be a totem — and it is implored to return that it 
may be again killed. 4 Formal prayer is sometimes made 
to an animal in important tribal ceremonies, as in 

1 " Bureau of American Ethnology," '08, pp. 9-43. 

2 Op. cit., vii., pp. 221-223. 

3 Curr, " Australian Race," ii., p. 476 ; cf. " Native Tribes," 
p. 614. 

4 Batchelor, " Ainu," pp. 485-496, 



94 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

British Columbia when a boy is ordered by the chief to 
pray to the first salmon sighted for a good catch. 1 In 
New Guinea hunters are required to abstain from certain 
foods and to perform purificatory ceremonies ; 2 while, 
among the Nandi, certain men, who are antipathetic to 
the animals, are forbidden to hunt, or make traps, or 
dig for game. 3 

In central Australia every tribe is charged with the 
duty of procuring food for the tribe. The name Inti- 
chiuma is applied by the Arunta to certain sacred 
ceremonies whereby is secured the increase of the animal 
or plant which gives its name to the totem. When 
and how they arose is not known ; the natives have no 
traditions which deal with their origin. Each totem 
has its own ceremonies and no two of them are alike, 
though all have for their sole object the purpose of 
increasing the food supply of the tribe. Any member 
of the tribe can attend the ceremonies irrespective of 
class. The time is fixed by the Alatunja, but since 
they are concerned with the increase of the totem the 
time usually corresponds with the breeding or flower- 
ing season of the objects in question. When the cere- 
monies are to be performed at Alice Springs the men of 
the local group assemble and proceed, late in the after- 
noon, to Emily Gap, a place especially associated with 
the Alcheringa ancestors of the group. On its walls are 
the sacred drawings characteristic of the totem. The 
Alatunja, who is in the lead, carries a small pitchi, 
which is called Apmara, and all the others have in 
their hands little twigs of the Udniringa bush, on which 
the totem (the witchetty grub) feeds. When the party 
reaches the spot known as Ilthura oknira, placed high up 
on the western wall of the Gap, they gather round a 

1 Teit in " Jesup North Pacific Expedition," ii., p. 280. 

2 Seligmann, " Melanesians of British New Guinea," p. 291. 

3 Hollis, "Nandi," pp. 8, 2q. 



THE FOOD QUEST AND TOTEMISM 95 

shallow cave, in which is a large block of quartzite, 
representing the Maegwa or adult animal. After 
each person has tapped the stone with his twigs the 
Alatunja takes up one of the Churinga unchima, or 
smaller stones which surround the Maegwa, saying, 
" Unga murnaoknirraulquinna" (You have eaten much 
food). Then, after carefully examining other sacred 
spots in the neighbourhood, they silently march in single 
file to the nearest Ilthura in the direction of Alice Springs. 
The Alatunja goes into the hole and scoops out any 
dirt he finds in it, and lays bare two stones — the larger 
called Churinga uchaqua, which represents the chrysalis 
stage of the totem animal ; the smaller or Churinga 
unchima (the eggs). Songs referring to the Uchaqua 
are sung, and each man's stomach is hit with the stone, 
saying again, " You have eaten much food." 

After visiting some of these Ilthura, and repeating 
the same ceremony at each, a start is made for the camp. 
Within a mile or so of the latter the party halt and 
decorate themselves with the Ilkinia, or sacred design 
of the totem, head-bands, the Chilara, hair-strings, nose- 
bones, bunches of feathers and twigs of the Udniringa 
bush. While they have been away an old man, left 
behind for the purpose, has built a long narrow wurley, 
called Unibana, which is extended to represent the 
chrysalis case from which the Maegwa, or fully-developed 
insect, emerges. Those who have not been taking part 
in the ceremony assemble behind the Umbana. Reach- 
ing this spot the performers enter the wurley, the men 
and women outside lie face downwards till they are 
told to arise. Those inside sing of the animal in its 
various stages, and of the Alknalinta stone, and the 
great Maegwa at its base. Then they slowly all shuffle 
out and back again. When all are once more in the 
wurley the singing ceases, food and water are brought 
to them by the old man who built the Umbana. This 



96 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

is the first food and drink they have partaken of since 
they originally left the camp, fasting being one of the 
necessary conditions to the due performance of the rite. 

When it is dusk they leave the wurley. A large 
fire is lighted, and around this they sit till daybreak, 
singing of the witchetty grub. The women of the 
right moiety meanwhile keep watch to see if the women 
of the other moiety continue to lie down. They also 
peer about, watching the Intichiuma party as the 
women did in the Alcheringa. Suddenly the singing 
ceases, the fire is quickly extinguished by the Alatunja, 
the men of the other moiety of the tribe spring to their 
feet and run away to the main camp. The Intichiuma 
party remains at the wurley till daylight, when the 
men strip themselves of their ornaments, throwing 
away their Udniringa twigs. The Alatunja then pro- 
claims, " Our Intichiuma is finished, the Mulyamuka 
must have these things or else our Intichiuma would 
not be successful, and some harm would happen to us." 
They all reply, " Yes, yes, certainly." The ornaments 
are then handed over to the men of the other moiety. 
The Ilkinia and the painting on the face is obliterated 
by rubbing red ochre over the bodies of the performers, 
the men then put on their arm strings, etc., and return 
to their respective camps. 1 

Analogous rites are found in the tribes to the north 
and north-east of the Arunta, also among the Urabunna, 
but the Alatunja there does not partake of his own 
totem, but only gives permission to others to eat it. 
Similar ceremonies are probably practised in the north- 
west, though evidence at present is scanty. 

Among the Urabunna, there is a rock which is sup- 
posed to represent an old jew lizard standing up in the 
act of throwing boomerangs. In order to secure an 

1 "Native Tribes," pp. 170-179. 



THE FOOD QUEST AND TOTEMISM 97 

abundant production of lizards all that is necessary is 
to knock pieces of stone off the face of the rock and 
throw them about in various directions. At the same 
spot there is also a tree with a rough bark supposed to 
represent the skin of the lizard. This is stripped off 
and burnt to secure a supply of the animal. 1 In order 
to make kangaroos multiply, some kangaroo-dung is 
wrapped up in a grass called pillinjirri, of which the 
animal is very fond. This is then placed on the ground 
and set on fire, while the men, taking green bushes, 
light them at the fire and scatter the embers in all 
directions. These scattered embers are supposed to 
produce an abundant production of kangaroos. 2 

In a district like that of Central Australia the transi- 
tion from winter to summer is marked by very heavy 
rains, and, in consequence, a luxuriant vegetation sud- 
denly springs up, so that the " desert blossoms as the 
rose." The arid barren ground is not only carpeted with 
an abundant vegetation, but it also literally swarms 
with all kinds of moving creatures that have life — insects, 
birds, lizards, frogs, etc. Little wonder, then, that the 
native regards this season of fertility with awe and 
reverence, and seeks, by the performance of sacred rites, 
to co-operate with nature in making the animals and 
plants multiply. To this end the witchetty grub men 
wend their way along a certain path which tradition 
declares to have been traversed by the leader of the 
witchetty grubs in the Alcheringa, tap the stones 
representing the adult animal and its eggs, and subse- 
quently erect the wurley symbolizing the chrysalis of a 
witchetty grub. Into this structure the men of the 
totem shuffle in and out to promote the birth of the grub. 
Or, again, the Urabunna scatter fragments of a sacred 
rock or the embers of kangaroo-dung in all directions 

1 " Northern Tribes," p. 288. 2 Op. cit., p. 312. 

7 



98 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

in order that there may be an abundant supply of the 
totem. 

Complex and elaborate though some of these rites are, 
and uncertain in meaning as many of the details must 
be to the performers, their essential purpose is thus not 
difficult to discover. The immediate design is to pro- 
vide man with his daily bread, though, as will be shown 
later, in what may be called the " harvest " ceremonies, 
it is something higher and more enduring than the 
bread that perisheth, that is sought by the men who, 
after Intichiuma, when the grub is plentiful, gather 
large supplies and solemnly eat a little of the sacred 
food. These ceremonies are not merely productive, 
for through them the very life of the sacred species is 
imbibed by the primitive worshippers, in what may be 
described as a rudimentary sacramental meal. But 
this is to anticipate. The spring rites cannot claim so 
lofty a motive for their performance. It is not that the 
Australian wishes to show his gratitude to the giver of 
all, that prompts him to repair to Emily Gap at the 
approach of summer. It is rather because he knows 
that his physical life depends on the supply of animals 
and plants that come forth after the torrential spring 
rains that he seeks to co-operate with nature by bringing 
all the forces at his command to bear on the great desire 
he utters and represents by his Intichiuma ceremonies. 1 
He must eat that he may live and replenish the earth. 
It is this emotion that he expresses in the spring totemic 
rites. 

1 Cf. Miss Harrison, " Ancient Art and Ritual," chap. ii. 



CHAPTER VII 
RAIN-MAKING 

Water totems in Central Australia — The Intichiuma — Rites 
connected with stones, animals, skeletons, etc. — Prayer and 
sacrifice for rain — The purpose of rain-making ceremonies. 

A MODERN civilized community is chiefly 
dependent upon the weather for its incomings 
and outgoings, and for the variation in the 
prices of bread and vegetables, yet even so it is not easy 
for us to understand a condition of life in which a bad 
harvest means starvation. But in primitive society, 
where the food-supply is governed directly by the 
rainfall, the attitude of man towards the weather is 
intensely practical. It is therefore not to be wondered 
at that, in countries where the rain is scarce, magico- 
religious ceremonies should be resorted to, so as to regulate 
the supply. So important is this aspect of primitive cult 
that a special class of magicians, and in some cases a 
particular totem, is set apart for the due performance 
of rain-making ceremonies. Like the rites held in the 
spring in connexion with the multiplication of the 
totems, the ceremonies in the latter case are of the 
nature of an Intichiuma, and are only shared in by 
initiated men of the water totem, the majority of whom 
belong to the Purula and Kumara among the Arunta. To 
them the secret of rain-making was imported in the Al- 
cheringa by an individual named Irtchwoanga, who also 
settled the exact places at which the ceremonies should 

99 



ioo PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

be held. One of the most important of the water totem 
groups is a local subdivision of the Arunta, inhabiting 
a district about fifty miles to the east of Alice Springs, 
called by the natives the Rain Country (Kartwia quat- 
cha). 

When the " Chantchwa," or leader of this group, is 
about to hold a rain-making ceremony he sends out 
messengers (Inwurra) to the neighbouring groups to 
inform them of his intention, and to call together the 
members of the totem. When all are assembled, the 
men inarch into camp, decorate themselves, sit down in 
a line and sing. They then file out of the camp, and 
scatter in search of game, which is cooked and eaten, 
but no water may be drunk. When they have eaten 
they again paint themselves, this time broad bands of 
down being fixed on, as usual with human blood, so 
that they encircle the stomach, legs, arms and forehead. 
Meanwhile some of the older men have been erecting a 
bough wurley, called nalyilta, near the main camp. 
The floor of the hut is strewn with a thick layer of gum 
leaves to make it as soft as possible. When the decorat- 
ing is complete the men march back at sunset silently 
and in single file to where the wurley has been built. 
On reaching the spot the young men enter first and lie 
face downwards at the inner end, where they remain till 
the ceremony is over. Meanwhile, the older men decor- 
ate the Chantchwa, who then takes up a position near 
to the opening into the wurley. The old men sit round 
him and sing for some time. 

When the singing is over the Chantchwa walks slowly 
twice up and down a trench extending for thirty yards 
from the wurley, quivering his body and legs in a most 
extraordinary manner. While this is taking place the 
young men arise and join the old men. A song is sung 
and the Chantchwa regulates his movements accordingly. 
When he re-enters the wurley the young men at once 



RAIN-MAKING 101 

lie down again. The same performance is repeated at 
intervals during the night, the singing continuing prac- 
tically all the time. At daybreak the Chantchwa 
executes a final quiver, and, thoroughly exhausted, 
declares the ceremony at an end. The young men jump 
to their feet and rush out of the wurley, screaming in 
imitation of the spur-winged plover. As soon as the 
cry is heard in the main camp, it is taken up by the men 
and women who have remained behind there. The 
decorations of the Chantchwa are removed, and all 
follow him to a spot just within sight of the main camp, 
where a clearing has been made by an old woman. Here 
they lie down and later go to the main camp where food 
and water await them. The whole performance lasts 
about forty-eight hours. On the next night an ordin- 
ary rain dance is held by the men. The women look on 
and assist with the singing. 1 

Sir James Frazer thinks that the rites imitate a rising 
storm. 2 The wurley, he imagines, stands for the vault 
of heaven, from which the rain-clouds, represented by 
the chief actor strutting across the trench, come forth 
to move across the sky. The other performers imitate 
birds that are supposed to be harbingers of rain. 

The Kaitish tribe has also a water totem. When 
the headman decides to hold an Intichiuma ceremony 
to make rain, he goes to a place called Anira, where, 
in the Alcheringa, old men sat down and drew water 
from their whiskers, the latter being now represented 
by stones out of which the rainbow arose. First of 
all he paints the stones with red ochre, and three rain- 
bows, one on the ground, one on his body, and one on 
a shield, which he also decorates with zigzag lines of 
white pipe-clay to represent lightning. After singing 
over the stones, and pouring water from a vessel on 

1 "Native Tribes," pp. 189-193. 

2 " Golden Bough," Pt. I, pp. 26 ff. 



io2 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

them and on himself, he returns to the camp, taking 
with him the shield which must only be seen by the 
men of the same moiety of the tribe as himself, lest 
the rites be rendered of no avail. The shield is hidden 
awa}/ in his camp until sufficient rain has fallen, after 
which it is brought forth and the rainbow rubbed out. 
A vessel containing water is kept by the side of the 
rain-maker, into which he throws pieces of down from 
time to time to represent clouds. The wife of the 
leader is obliged to absent herself from the camp for 
the time being, and on her return imitates the sound of 
the plover, a bird the characteristic note of which is always 
associated with rain in these parts. If rain follows the 
natives attribute it to the performance of the ceremony, 
but, if it does not, it simply means that some one else 
has prevented it by superior magic. 1 

The Tjingilli, to the north of the Arunta, have a 
curious ceremony concerned with rain-making, apart 
from the ordinary Intichiuma. A fat bandicoot is 
caught by one of the Liaritji (i.e. men belonging to a 
special moiety of the tribe), care being taken not to 
injure it. The man then wraps it up in paper-bark and 
carries it about in a pitchi, singing over it until such 
time as it becomes very thin and weak. Then he lets 
it go, and the rain is supposed to follow. 2 Messrs. 
Spencer and Gillen could find no explanation of the 
relationship between the bandicoot and rain. 

In the Anula tribe of Northern Australia rain-making 
is specially associated with one particular spot called 
Upintjara, where is a water-hole in the bed of a creek. 
The dollar-bird, commonly known as the rain-bird, is 
connected with the rainy season. A man of the Mum- 
bakiaku totem can make rain by catching a snake and 
putting it alive into the water-hole. After holding it 

1 "Northern Tribes," pp. 294-296. 2 " Native Tribes," p. 311. 



RAIN-MAKING 103 

under water for a time, he takes it out, kills it, and lies 
down by the side of the creek. Then, in imitation of 
a rainbow, he makes an arched bundle of grass stalks 
and sets it up over the snake. After that, all he does 
is to sing over the snake and the imitation rainbow, 
and sooner or later the rain will fall. * 

Certain animals intimately associated with water, 
such as frogs, toads, etc., are regarded as custodians of 
rain in many parts of the world. In some cases the 
animal must be black, the colour being typical of the 
appearance of the desired rain-clouds. Conversely, if 
fine weather is needed, the animal must be of a spotless 
white. 2 

Other ceremonies resorted to in order to produce a 
downfall of rain consist in placing in water stones, re- 
presenting the abode of a spirit or rain-god, 3 sprinkling 
and squirting water in a particular manner, 4 pouring 
water on a skeleton, 5 or on the grave of an ancestral 
rain-maker, 6 swinging the bull-roarer to make thunder 
and wind, 7 both harbingers of rain, and performing a 
sacred dance for several nights in order to induce the 
gods to let the rain fall. 8 Prayers for rain are frequent 
in primitive society. Thus, the only actual instance 
of prayers being offered to supernatural beings in Aus- 
tralia is in connexion with rain-making. In the Dieri 
country the sky in which the Mura-muras — the prede- 
cessors and prototypes of the blacks — live is supposed 
to be a vast plain inhabited by wild tribes. In times 

1 " Northern Tribes," p. 314. 

2 " Golden Bough," Pt. I, pp. 290 ff. 

3 Turner, " Samoa," p. 45. 

4 " Native Tribes," pp. 394 ff. 

5 " Samoa," p. 345 f. 

6 D. Kidd, " Essential Kaffir," p. 115. 

7 Op. cit., p. 115. 

8 " Unknown Mexico," pp. 330 ff. ; cf. the Author's article, 
" Rain," in " Encyl. Rel. and Ethics." 



104 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of drought the Dieri call upon these supernatural beings 
to give them power to make rain, crying out in loud 
voices about the impoverished state of the land, and 
the half -starved condition of the tribe. 1 Similar invo- 
cations are made by the Masai, the Nandi and other 
African tribes. Closely related to prayers for rain is 
the offering of sacrifices in order to make the refreshing 
showers fall. The Akikuyu sacrifice sheep and goats 
beneath the sacred mugomo tree by way of intercession 
for rain. The whole of the meat is left under the tree, 
the fat being placed in a cleft of the trunk or in the 
branches, as special titbits for Ngai, the good god who 
sends rain, riches, thunder and lightning. 2 

Frazer is of the opinion that rain-making ceremonies 
are performed to produce rain by imitating it. 3 Now, 
there can be no doubt that many of the rites associated 
with rain-making imitate the natural process. Thus, 
for example, when the Dieri erect a hut over a hole 
in the ground and drop blood on the men sitting round, 
while others throw handfuls of down in the air, they 
symbolically represent the natural phenomena con- 
nected with rainfall. The hut portrays the firmament, 
the down the cirrus clouds, the dropping blood the rain. 
Two large stones are placed in the centre of the structure 
to represent the gathering clouds presaging rain, and 
the overthrow of the hut by men butting at it with their 
heads, the piercing of the clouds and the downpour of 
rain. The ceremony is supposed to be seen by the 
Mura-muras, and as a result they cause the clouds to 
appear in the sky, unless they are angry with the people. 
Such a rite as this certainly contains an element of 
imitation, but only because the savage is a man of action, 
who " dances out his religion." When he wants wind 

1 Howitt, p. 394. 

2 " J. A. I.," xxxiv., p. 263. 

3 " Golden Bough," Pt. I, p. 247. 



RAIN-MAKING 105 

or rain he does not, in the lower culture, prostrate him- 
self before his remote All-Father, but gathers certain 
people together, often members of a water totem, to 
perform magico-religious rites. Thus, he expresses by 
actions, sometimes accompanied by suitable exclama- 
tions, his inmost desires. He wills to live, and because 
in Central Australia the advent of rain means fertility 
and a plentiful supply of the necessities of life, he there- 
fore utters and represents symbolically the emotions 
that are stirred within him, believing that by so doing 
he assists the powers that control the weather. Thus 
rain-making ceremonies, like other rites that govern 
the food-supply, are outward signs of an inward emotion, 
rather than pieces of frivolous and valueless mimicry. 



CHAPTER VIII 
CONDUCT OF WAR 

Savage methods of warfare — The blood-feud, — the " Atninga " 
party — Tabus on warriors and their relatives — Purificatory 
rites — The sympathetic bond. 

AMONG aboriginal people such as the Austra- 
lians there is hardly anything corresponding 
to a state of war, where armed parties go into 
battle with the intention to kill as many of the enemy 
as possible. Killing by magic or violence, stealing 
another man's goods, a quarrel about a woman, an 
elopement, and so on, usually lead to a fight between 
the two interested parties. When a man sickens in a 
tribe his friends invariably conclude that he is the victim 
of evil magic. Some unfortunate individual is selected 
as the cause of the plague, and brought before the sick 
man, to exonerate himself if he can. The former is 
provided with a club or a shield ; if the person who 
presents himself is considered innocent, he strikes the 
shield of the accused with his club, and the accused 
returns the blow lightly and retires. If he is pronounced 
guilty, a young man is selected to meet him in combat, 
the conflict usually continuing till blood is drawn, or 
one or the other gets his head broken. There the matter 
ends. 

The actual mode of fighting consists in one man 
pounding away with his club at the other, who defends 

106 



CONDUCT OF WAR 107 

himself with his shield. When the former is tired the 
latter sets to work with his club, in the same manner. 
This goes on till one or the other succumbs. Some- 
times, however, the friends of the conflicting parties 
get restive and interfere, in which case the fight becomes 
more serious and leads to a general quarrel between 
the two local groups. This is often the case in quarrels 
arising out of elopements, and similar grievances, or 
when a blood feud has to be atoned for. In the latter 
case the whole totem class of the aggressor meets the 
whole totem class of the victim ; champions are selected 
to represent each side, as usual, and the rest of the men 
are spectators. 1 Or else the aggrieved party arrange to 
make an attack upon the men who are regarded as the 
offenders. The attackers, armed with spear and spear- 
thrower, boomerangs and shields, march up to the 
enemies' camp, and either a battle ensues, lasting for 
several hours, or else the Atninga, as the avenging 
party is called in Australia, will lie in ambush and await 
an opportunity of spearing one or two of the men with- 
out risk to themselves. 

When a tribe is threatened by the advance of an At- 
ninga party it is usual to send women over to the enemies' 
camp with a view to conciliating the Atninga men. If 
they accept the favour, it is understood that the quarrel 
will not be pursued further ; if they refuse the offer, 
their mission is known to be unfriendly. A council is 
sometimes held to consider terms of agreement, and 
arrangement short of actual warfare is often arrived at. 
Thus, for example, several members of the offending 
tribe who have been troublesome and in various ways 
offensive, may be handed over to the enemy as a ran- 
som. Even when a great battle does take place between 
two tribes it is not a brutal, savage, blood-thirsty fray, 
but generally a well-devised set-to between the fighting 
1 Frazer, " Aboriginals of New South Wales," p. 41. 



108 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

men of each side. Jumping, dancing, spear-throwing, 
yelling and screaming are all part of the conflict, but 
happily few deaths ensue. The wounded are well cared 
for at the conclusion, and the animosity ceases as soon 
as the fight is over. Not infrequently a dance, in 
which both parties take part, brings the day's work to 
an amicable close. 

War, according to savage philosophy, is a " holy 
function," and therefore renders those who take part 
in it liable to spiritual danger. 1 Thus, a number of 
tabus and similar rites have gathered round the warrior. 
The vessels he uses are sacred, continence and personal 
cleanliness must be observed, care must be taken lest the 
enemy should get hold of anything by which they might 
work magic against them. 2 Like the Israelites the 
natives of New South Wales believe that if the enemy 
discovered their excrement they would burn it in the 
fire and thus ensure their collective destruction, or 
that individually they would pine away and die. The 
tribes in the western district of Victoria, with the super- 
stitious cleanliness so characetristic of the Australian 
natives, are careful to bury all excrement at a distance 
from the camp, and in such a manner as to conceal its 
whereabouts from a possible enemy. 3 Should he dis- 
cover the hiding-place, he might obtain possession of a 
piece of the excrement and keep it till it decayed. The 
enemy would, of course, be waning to a corresponding 
extent. Dr. Codrington shows that similar beliefs 
exist among the Melanesians. 4 

Among some Indian tribes of North America the 
natives hang upon trees the vessels out of which the 
warriors eat their food, to prevent their sanctity or 

1 Cf. " Religion of Semites," p. 455. 

2 Deut. xxiii. 9-14 ; Sam. xxi. 5. 

3 Dawkins, " Australian Aborigines," p. 12. 

4 " Melanesians," pp. 203, 204. 



CONDUCT OF WAR 109 

defilement from being communicated with disastrous 
results to their friends. The Nootka Indians wash 
themselves thoroughly from head to foot before they 
go to war, scrubbing themselves with briars and saying, 
" Good or great God let me live, not be sick, find the 
enemy, not fear him, find him asleep, and kill a great 
many of them." For a week they abstain from all sen- 
sual pleasure, merriment and feasting ; the last few 
days being spent, for the most part, in ablutions. While 
on their expeditions they are not allowed to lean against 
a tree, nor lie by or kill bears and deer on their journey. 1 

So potent is blood tabu that in primitive society the 
warrior who has slain his foe in battle is as " dangerous " 
as a pregnant woman. He may touch nobody, not 
even his wife, nor go near the rest of the tribe, till he 
has performed the necessary purificatory rites. Mean- 
while the women beat drums, and shout to drive away 
the spirits of the victims. Even the weapons are often 
subjected to ceremonial " cleansing." 2 In Africa the 
ox figures largely in the purification rites. The body of 
the manslayer is often smeared with the contents of the 
stomach of the animal, or made to force himself through 
a hole that has been made with a spear through the 
middle of the carcase. The Bechuanas, after a battle, 
shave the heads of the warriors to remove any pollution 
that might be clinging to them. 3 

The Arunta think that the spirit of a man slain in 
battle or its equivalent follows an Atninga party as a 
little bird called the Chichurkna, and is constantly on 
the look out to injure the manslayers. If any of the 
party should fail to hear its cry he would become para- 
lysed in his right arm and shoulder. At night, when 
the bird is flying over the camp, the men have to lie 

1 " Golden Bough," Pt. Ill, pp. 157-165. 

2 E. Casalis, " The Basutos," p. 258. 

3 " Golden Bough," Pt. III. p. 165. 



no PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

awake and keep the right arm and shoulder carefully 
concealed, lest the bird should look down and injure 
them. When they hear its cry they are satisfied since 
they know that the Ulthana (the ghost) recognizes that 
he is detected, and is powerless. On their return to the 
camp, after decorating themselves, they begin a war- 
dance, holding and moving their shields as if to ward 
off something which was being thrown at them. This 
action is intended to beat off the spirit of the dead man. 
The Immirinja men — the name given to those who 
actually do the avenging — then separate out, and a 
number of old women strike their shields with a club. 
They are followed by the men who did not go on the 
expedition. These use boomerangs instead of clubs 
to strike the shields. If the sound produced by the 
blows is hollow it is regarded as a sign that the owner 
of the shield will not live long ; if, on the other hand, 
the sound is firm and strong, then he is safe. 

After the shield striking is over the women and chil- 
dren return to the camp, and the Atninga party march 
to the corrobboree ground, the Immirinja men remain- 
ing silent for several days. The shields of each of the 
manslayers are again struck, and the men continue to 
paint themselves with charcoal. Finally they decorate 
their bodies and faces with bright colours, and become 
free to talk about the affair, although they must still 
be careful to hear the cry of the Chichurkna, at night. 1 

Not only are the fortunes of war affected by the due 
observation of certain tabus and ceremonies on the part 
of the warriors, but their relations at home, being en 
rapport with them, have it in their power to turn the 
sympathetic bond to the utmost account for the benefit 
of those fighting far away. Hence, when a Dyak is out 
head-hunting his wife has to wear a sword day and night 
in order that he may always be thinking of his weapons ; 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 493-496. 



CONDUCT OF WAR in 

and she may not sleep during the day, nor go to bed 
before two o'clock in the morning, lest her husband 
should be surprised by the enemy. Fires are kept up 
till late at night in order that the men may not be cold. 
The roofing of the house is opened before daylight to 
prevent the warrior from sleeping too late. 1 Among 
the sea D} 7 aks of Banting in Sarawak at every meal a 
little rice must be left in the pot and put aside, to pre- 
vent the men from being hungry. The wife is obliged 
to keep her joints supple by taking frequent exercise, 
so as not to impede her husband's progress should he 
have to beat a hasty retreat. If a woman were to sew 
with a needle, the men would be likely to tread on the 
sharp spikes set by the enemy. 2 

Among the Tshi-speaking people of the Gold Coast 
the wives of the fighting men paint themselves white 
and adorn their persons with beads and charms. On 
the day when the battle is expected to take place they 
run about armed with guns or sticks resembling guns, 
and hack paw-paws (melon-like fruits) with their knives, 
in imitation of the process of removing from its shoulders 
the head of an enemy. 3 Dr. Frazer, quoting from Mr. 
Fitzgerald Marriott, describes a dance that took place 
in Framin during the Ashantee war. " The women whose 
husbands had gone to the w r ar were painted white and 
wore nothing but a short petticoat. At their head was 
a shrivelled old sorceress in a very short white petticoat, 
her black hair arranged in a sort of long projecting horn, 
and her black face, breasts, arms and legs profusely 
adorned with white circles and crescents. All carried 
long white bushes made of buffalo or horse tails, and as 
they danced they sang, ' Our husbands have gone to 
Ashanteeland ; may they sweep their enemies off the 
face of the earth.' " 4 

1 Op.cit.,Pt. I, p. 127. 2 "Man," viii., '08, p. 186. 

3 " Tshi-speaking Peoples," p. 226. 

4 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. I. p. 132. 



112 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Among some of the Bantu tribes when the chief 
resolves to make war on a distant enemy, he and the 
older men of the tribe pray daily for victory to the 
spirits of the dead kings. The day before the army 
sets forth the great war-drum is sounded and the war- 
riors mobilize. In the evening the chief and the elderly 
women, the latter acting as representatives of the 
wives of the dead kings, assemble at the shrines of the 
ancestral chiefs. While the king prays to be led straight 
to the enemies' stockade the women beat their breasts. 
On the next morning the whole army is marshalled in 
front of the ghost-huts of the dead kings. The chief 
dances a war-dance, while his wife sprinkles him with 
holy flour, and all prostrate themselves in supplication 
before the shrines. 1 

1 " Golden Bough," Pt. VI, p. 192. 



CHAPTER IX 
SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 

Theories of the origin of sacrifice — Cain and Abel — The Gift 
theory — Totemic origin (Jevons, Robertson Smith, Frazer) — 
M. Marillier's view — The theories of MM. Hubert and Mauss — 
Frazer's view in " Totemism and Exogamy " — Rudimentary 
conceptions of sacrifice in Australia — The Blood- Covenant — 
First-fruit offerings — The Aztec— rites — Sacrifice in Egyptian 
cult and in the Hellenic Mysteries of the Orphic — Dionj^sos 
and Attis-Cybele — Mithraic sacramental rites — The Christian 
Eucharist. 

SACRIFICE is essentially a religious act of worship 
that takes the form of rendering to the deity, or 
to some sacred object, a material oblation, which 
is usually consumed in his service. The object of 
sacrifice, in the intention of the worshippers, is typically 
to secure union with the deity. This communion with 
a divine being is the end generally contemplated in 
sacrificial rites, in all stages of culture. 

The origin of sacrifice has for some years been sought 
in a natural human custom rather than in an institu- 
tion of Divine appointment. The latter view rests on 
Genesis iv. 3-5 and Hebrews xii. 4, wherein it appears 
that Divine sanction permitted Abel's offering, and 
considered it, by faith, more acceptable than that of 
Cain. That Yahweh should show preference for blood 
offerings is in accordance with Hebrew ritual, in which 
the oblation of blood is considered to be more effica- 
cious, but it is contrary to the generally accepted view 
8 113 



ii4 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

that the bloodless sacrifice was the loftier conception. 
In fact the airvpaUpa. — " offerings without fire " — 
were regarded by Greek philosophers of the fifth century, 
such as Porphyry, who had a vegetation theory to main- 
tain, as the older form of sacrifice, coming down from 
the time of man's innocency. Which of the two kinds 
may be believed the earlier is a question to be discussed 
in another connexion. 

The story of the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, it is argued, 
suggests a Divine origin for the rite, because faith 
necessarily implies that there must have been a previous 
revelation concerning the ordinance. Without such it 
would be superstition rather than faith. Furthermore, 
it has been pointed out by Protestant commentators 
that St. Paul condemns will-worship (eOeXoOprjo-Keia 
Col. ii. 23), and therefore it would have been unlawful 
for sacrifice to be offered unless directly ordained by 
God. But as this theory was directed against the claim 
of the Catholic Church to decree rites and festivals not 
expressly ordained in Scripture, it is hardly worth con- 
sidering as a serious argument in favour of the Divine 
institution of sacrifice. 

As a matter of actual fact the J narrative treats sacri- 
fice as a natural institution ; an instinctive mode of 
worship ; while the P creation document ignores the exist- 
ence of the rite altogether. Some have tried to read 
into the clothing of Adam and Eve with " coats of skins " 
after their banishment from the garden the authoriza- 
tion by Yahweh of sin-offerings. But this reasoning 
is precarious. The circumstances of the case are all 
against such an interpretation. While Adam and Eve 
were in the garden communion with God is represented 
as uninterrupted and therefore sacrifice would be un- 
necessary. It is far more reasonable to regard Genesis 
iii. 21 as a fanciful explanation of the origin of clothing 
than as the beginning of sacrifice, 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 115 

In conclusion it may be said that the Divine origin 
of the institution stands or falls with the theory of a 
primitive revelation, and since there are but few, if 
any, theologians who have not abandoned the view 
that a special revelation was vouchsafed to the Hebrews 
alone, the grounds for seeking the Divine origin of 
sacrifice are uncertain. Now that a healthier and juster 
view is being taken of the revelation of God to man, 
the Divine origin of religious institutions is sought not 
in books, but in the minds of men. It is in the " fleshly 
tables of the heart " that the Most Highest is pleased 
to dwell, speaking in the worthier manifestations of the 
"nature" that He has made, till, in the fulness of 
time, when man's mind was ready, He substituted a final 
for a progressive revelation, in the Incarnate Logos. 
Thus, the rites of " natural " religions are but the means 
adopted by God to educate the world for the Divine 
revelation in Christ. Nowhere is this fact more clearly 
illustrated than in the evolution of sacrifice — the most 
important rite in the history of religion. By its means, 
in some form or other, men everywhere have sought to 
establish, renew and maintain communion with the 
sacred and Divine world. Such communion is the 
essential function of religion, and the means, whereby 
men have sought it, are of the utmost importance to 
the student of religion at any period of its history. It 
is not surprising that the rite has called forth, in recent 
years, elaborate anthropological research, as well as 
much thoughtful discussion by theologians. 

Early Christian writers make no attempt to explain 
the origin of the custom, nor was any such attempt 
made by the European philosophers of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth century. It was not until the spirit of 
historical inquiry had entered the sphere of religious 
investigation, in the second half of the last century, 
that scientific theories as to the beginning and signifi- 



n6 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

cance of sacrifice, were put forth by anthropologists. 

According to Professor Tylor, sacrifice was originally 
a gift offered to supernatural beings to secure their 
favour or minimize their hostility. Gradually this pur- 
pose became transformed, in the mind of the sacrificers, 
into the homage theory, which again passed into the 
renunciation theory. Herbert Spencer is of much the 
same opinion. " The origin of the practice," he says, 
" is to be found in the custom of leaving food and drink 
at the graves of the dead, and as the ancestral spirit 
rose to divine rank the refreshments placed for the dead 
developed into sacrifices.' ' x 

The conception of sacrifice as a gift to the deity is 
very widespread. In Greece the word for " gift " is 
used for offering in Homer and onwards. The Hebrew 
term for sacrifice (" minha ") has the same sense ; it 
is used for both bloody and unbloody offerings, though 
from the time of Ezekiel (sixth century B.C.) onwards 
it became a technical term for cereal offerings (Gen. 
iv. 3, 4 verse ; Lev. ii.). 

This theory of sacrifice is criticized by Dr. Jevons 
as being of comparatively late application, dating back 
only to the time when the idea of " property " had come 
to play a leading part in religion, and religion had con- 
sequently resolved itself into the art of giving something 
in order to get more in return : a system ridiculed by 
Lucian, denounced by the Psalmist, and exposed in 
the " Euthyphro." Jevons, by way of a counterblast, 
maintains that the earliest offerings were means whereby 
the worshipper was placed in physical contact and per- 
manent union with his god. " The core of worship is 
communion ; offerings in the sense of gifts are compara- 
tively modern institutions both in ancestor-worship 
and in the worship of the gods ; as ancestor-worship is 

1 " Principles of Sociology," i., pp. 139 ft. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 117 

later than, and modelled on, the worship of the gods." 1 
In his paper on " Animal worship " in the Journal of 
Philology 2 Professor Robertson Smith discusses the 
question of Totemism and makes it the basis of sacrifice. 
Among the early Arabs he finds three marks by which 
totemism may be recognized : (1) The existence of 
stock names after " an animal or plant or, more rarely, 
a more natural object." In early times he believes the 
tribesmen generally bore on their bodies a mark of their 
totem. In this way he explains the custom of artificial 
deformation practised by them. (2) The ascription to the 
totem of a sacred character, accounts for its veneration. 
For the same reason a totem is only eaten on solemn occa- 
sions, by way of a sacrament. (3) The prevalence of 
the conception that the members of the stock are of one 
and the same blood as the totem, or sprung from a plant 
of the species chosen as the totem. He concludes that 
totemism must have been practised in early Arabia. 

In 1889 (two years after Frazer's encyclopaedia 
article on totemism had appeared) he published the 
well-known lectures on " The Religion of the Semites," 
in which he is very cautious in his application of a to- 
temic basis to Semitic religion. " It is," he says, " one 
thing to say that the phenomena of Semitic religion 
carry us back to totemism, and another thing to say 
that they are all explained from totemism." 3 Never- 
theless he thinks that the conclusion that the Semites 
did not pass through a totemic stage can only be avoided 
by supposing them to be an exception to the universal 
rule. In these lectures he develops his theory of the 
" theanthropic " animal, at once god and kinsman, as 
the originating cause of sacrifice of the communal type. 4 
He considers Frazer to have proved the existence of 

1 " Introduction to the History of Religion," pp. 223-225. 

2 Vol. ix, p. 217. 

3 P. 139. i P. 409. 



■J 

118 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

totemic sacraments involving actual -communion in 
the flesh and blood of the sacred animal. 

This view distinguishes (i) honorific, (2) piacular, 
and (3) mystical or sacramental offerings. His leading 
conception is the distinction between the view of sacrifice 
as a gift to the deity — the worshippers laying upon the 
altar the offerings of the first-fruits of the harvest as a 
tribute to the god, and the view that regards it as a 
sacramental ritualistic act whereby the worshipper 
passes into actual communion with the godhead by 
partaking of food and drink in which the Deity is im- 
manent. Professor Robertson Smith, however, appears 
to confuse, in " The Religion of the Semites," the two 
aspects of sacrificial communion — the mystic and the 
non-mystic. The alliance of man with the divinity 
through sharing in a common meal, or in any other non- 
mystic manner, is by no means the same thing as sacra- 
mental communion in the truly mystic sense, wherein 
the deity and man enter into vital relationship by the 
latter partaking of divine food. 

As evidence that the effective thing in sacrifice is the 
sharing of sacred flesh and blood, he adduces numerous 
examples (such as the shedding of a man's own blood 
and the offering of his hair) in which there is no death 
of a victim, and no idea of penal satisfaction of the deity. 
In the Hebrew ritual he lays special stress on the com- 
mon clan -sacrifice (the " zebah ") in which a- part of 
the victim is given to the god and a part is consumed 
by the worshipper. This he contrasts with the offerings 
which are given wholly to the god, and, leaving aside 
piacular and holocausts, this distinction he makes cor- 
respond to that between animal and vegetable offerings, 
the latter, he holds, being originally not conciliatory. 
Thus, he concludes, the expiatory power lies in the 
sharing of animal flesh. 

Here he is confronted by the holocaust and the piacu- 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 119 

lum, expiatory sacrifices in which there is no communal 
eating. To avoid this difficulty Professor Robertson 
Smith suggests that these aspects are later developments 
consequent on the decreasing belief in kinship with 
animals. Thus, sacrificial meals became merely occasions 
of feastings, and, with the establishment of monarchies, 
sacrifices came to be regarded as gifts, the victim being 
wholly burnt (holocaust), or otherwise disposed of 
(piaculum) . 

In " The Religion of the Semites," (2nd Ed., '94) he 
restated his theory to overcome the difficulty resulting 
from his view that the god became identified with the 
kin by the blood-bond — a custom he regarded as rela- 
tively late. On the new hypothesis he regarded the god, 
the victim and the totemic group as the same kin. The 
original totem is female and therefore descent " follows 
the distaff " in primitive society. With the introduc- 
tion of patrilineal descent the totem became male- 
Sacrifice in the first instance is, he thinks, a communion 
established by a bond of kinship. With the decline of 
totemism human sacrifice became the piaculum by 
which the union, when broken, was re-established. 
— Dr. Jevons adopts the same line, starting from the 
assumption that a totemic- system was the earliest form 
of society. 1 He supposes totemism to have originated 
in a covenant or alliance between a human society 
and what the savage conceives as an animal clan, organ- 
ized on the same line as his own. " At this stage," 
he says, " man imagines all things animate or inanimate 
to think, act, and feel like himself." This is certainly 
taking too much for granted. The savage only attributes 
animation to things that seem to him to act peculiarly 
or that present a strange or uncanny appearance. He 
realizes that some things are not alive. Jevons then 
argues that since savages take up a blood feud against 
1 " Introduction to History of Religion," pp. 10 1 ff. 



120 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

an animal species, therefore they may establish an alli- 
ance with them. He, however, by no means clearly 
describes how the alliance became a flesh and blood 
union. The blood covenant established, the rite of 
sacrifice and the subsequent communion he supposes, 
was the natural corollary of the savage principle, that 
the blood is the life. 

Many anthropologists are unable to regard the theory 
of totemic sacrifice as primitive. M. L. Marillier argues 
that an original bond of union between the god and the 
kin eliminates the need for sacrificial rites, and therefore 
makes initiation ceremonies superfluous. On the other 
hand, if the common meal was the only bond between 
the god and the kin, it does not appear that the god is 
a totem. MM. Hubert and Mauss think that the evi- 
dence of Semitic types of sacrifice may be only frag- 
mentary, and in any case there is no proof that they are 
primitive. They hold that the numerous forms of 
sacrifice cannot be reduced to the unity of a single 
arbitrarily chosen principle." 1 In view of the paucity 
of accurate accounts of early ritual they reject, the 
" genealogical " or evolutionary method, and devote 
themselves to an analysis of the ancient Hindu and 
Hebrew sacrificial ritual. Thus they arrive at the con- 
clusion-^that " sacrifice is a religious act, which by the 
consecration of a victim, modifies the state of the moral 
person who performs it, or of certain objects in which 
this person is interested." 2 But, like Robertson Smith, 
they think that sacrifice establishes a union between the 
human and the divine. This is effected by the inter- 
mediation of a victim destroyed in the rite, and eaten by 
the worshippers or by the priests. But the victim must 
be ceremonially prepared for the rite, and freed from 
tabu after the ceremony has been performed. It must 
be remembered, however, that the rituals chosen by 
L'Annee Sociologique," II. 2 Op. cit. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 121 

MM. Hubert and Mauss for analysis are by no means 
primitive, and therefore can hardly be said to fairly 
represent the essential nature of sacrifice in the earliest 
cults of undeveloped peoples. 

Dr. Frazer thought that Robertson Smith's Encyclo- 
paedia, article " Sacrifice," was a new departure in the 
history of religion. He says in the preface of the first 
Edition of "/The Golden Bough " that the central idea 
of his essay — " The conception of the slain god " — is 
derived directly from his friend's Robertson Smith. In 
the second Edition, however, he says in the preface, 
" I never assented to my friend's theory, and so far as I 
can remember, he never gave a hint that he assented 
to mine." Frazer, in further investigating totemism 
in the production of his work " Totemism and Exogamy," 
was laying more stress on the social side of totemism, 
whereas Robertson Smith emphasized its religious 
aspect. His " slain god " too was a vegetation spirit 
which he found difficult to relate to a blood sacrifice. 
To follow Robertson Smith meant destroying his newly 
formulated stratification theory of the distinction be- 
tween religion and magic. There could not, on his 
hypothesis, be sacramentalism, which was in any way 
religious, in an age of magic. Therefore sacramental 
communion to him is simply a magical rite. It is diffi- 
cult to understand how he reconciles this view with the 
fact that, in what is admittedly the highest and purest 
form of religion the world has ever known, sacramental 
union with the Divine is the essential feature. All other 
forms of communion with the Deity are like the unsatis- 
fying manna eaten in the wilderness : mere types and 
anticipations of " the Bread that came down from 
heaven," as the Incarnate Deity, " to give life to the 
world." x 

To avoid the difficulty of not deriving the slain god 
1 Cf. Marett in " Edinburgh Review," 191 5. 



122 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

from the sacrifice of totemic animals, or from any opera- 
tion of vegetation magic, Frazer makes the slaying of 
the king the origin of the rite. But if the slain god is 
to be identified with the slain king, the king must first 
be proved divine. He argues that since kings and chiefs 
are tabu therefore they must be sacred, in the sense that 
they are possessed by a god or a spirit. The numerous 
examples quoted do not, however, cover the whole field 
of primitive religion. Furthermore, by his own defini- 
tion of tabu as negative magic, 1 he divides sacred things 
into two classes — those that are divine and those that 
are not divine — and therefore disproves his own theory. 

One cannot but express surprise that so great an 
anthropologist as Sir James should abandon his original 
theory at the moment when most remarkable evidence 
in favour of the mystical union between the totem or 
" theanthropic " animal, and the totemite was forth- 
coming from Australia on the authority of Messrs. 
Spencer and Gillen. 

They observe that " a man will only eat very sparingly 
of his totem, and even if he does eat a little of it, which 
is allowable to him, he is careful, in the case, for example, 
of an emu man, not to eat the best part, such as the fat." 
In a note on this passage the authors add, " the people 
of the emu totem very rarely eat the eggs, unless very 
hungry and very short of food, in which case they would 
eat, but not too abundantly. If an emu man found a 
nest of eggs, and was very hungry, he might cook one, 
but he would take the remainder to his camp and dis- 
tribute them. If he were not very hungry all the eggs 
would be distributed. The flesh of the bird may be 
eaten sparingly, but only a very little of the fat ; the 
eggs and fat are more ekiringa or tabu than the meat. 
The same principle holds good through all the totems, 

1 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. I, p. in. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 123 

a carpet snake man will eat sparingly of a poor snake, 
but he will scarcely touch the reptile if it be fat." 1 

The totem of any man is regarded in Central Australia 
as the same thing as himself. Thus, the members of 
the witchetty grub totem do not eat it, or at least only 
sparingly themselves, the members of the local group, 
who do not belong to the totem, must not eat it out of 
the camp like ordinary food, but must bring it into camp 
and eat it there, else the men of the totem would be 
angry and the supply of grubs would fail. Each totemic 
group therefore has direct control over the numbers of 
the totem animals or plants, and they have the first 
right to it. Therefore, in Australia, when the time of 
year arrives at which certain foods become fit for eating, 
a ceremony has to be performed before the food may 
be eaten freely. A ceremonial eating or sacramental 
meal has to take place. In the witchetty grub totem, 
for instance, when, after Intichiuma (i.e. at the period 
analogous to harvest time among agricultural people) 
the grub is plentiful, large supplies are gathered which 
are brought into camp, cooked and stored away in 
pitchis. In due course they are taken to the men's 
camp, where all the men assemble. The Alatunja 
grinds up the contents of the pitchi between stones. 
Then he and the other men of the totem eat a little and 
distribute what remains to those who do not belong to 
the totem. He repeats the operation with a pitchi 
from his own store. The witchetty grub totem may 
then eat sparingly of the grub. 2 

Now, what is the purpose of this ceremony and what 
is the connexion between this solemn eating by the 
Alatunja and the ceremonial eating of the first-fruits 
elsewhere ? Frazer would, of course, say that the 
Australian rite is pure magic — religious it cannot be, 
for, on his hypothesis, the Australians know no religion 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 202. 2 " Native Tribes," p. 203. 



124 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

and have no gods. But if the rite is simply a magical 
means of increasing the food supply why is it performed 
at harvest-time ? The spring Intichiuma rites, which 
have been previously described, are quite different from 
those connected with the annual eating of the totem 
animal or plant. The latter can only be compared 
with the sacramental eating of the new corn as the body 
of the corn-spirit, in agricultural communities. Now, if 
Frazer regards the harvest customs of ancient Mexico 
and Peru x as religious sacrificial rites why does he go 
out of his way to assign the Australian " harvest " 
ceremonies to an " age " of magic ? 

Surely the two rites are analogous. In Australia 
the totem plant or animal is solemnly and sparingly 
eaten by the leader of the totem without any suggestion 
of magical control. It would be too late in the year 
to perform magical ceremonies to cause plants of animals 
to grow and multiply, and therefore another motive 
must be sought for the harvest rites. The solemn pre- 
parations show with what reverential awe these cere- 
monies are regarded by the natives, and the very tabus 
suggest sacredness, which is but another name for 
religion. Therefore if the rite is not magical — and a 
fortiori if it is, as Frazer terms it, sacramental — then 
it is religious, and the motive can be but that of enter- 
ing into sacramental relations with the totem. Jevons 
would go so far as to suggest that these Australian sac- 
ramental meals originally had reference to the god who 
was invited to partake of the first-fruits. In process 
of religious decay the invitation gradually dropped out, 
just as the reference to the All-Father has apparently 
become eliminated from the initiation ceremonies among 
the Central tribes. 2 Whether or no in Australia, as 

1 Cf. p. 126. 

2 " Introduction to the Study of Comparative Religion," pp. 
184 f. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 125 

elsewhere, the solemn eating of the first-fruits has been 
a sacramental meal of which both the god and the wor- 
shippers were partakers, there seems little room to doubt 
that the rites are not magical ceremonies designed for 
the purpose of increasing the food-supply. The purpose 
of the rite must be sought in some higher and worthier 
motive than that of providing the " meat that perish- 
eth." A further examination of the interesting and 
important customs associated with Intichiuma cere- 
monies will, it is believed, bring out the real significance 
of the rites. 

When an Intichiuma ceremony in the Undiara kan- 
garoo totem is to be performed the men proceed to the 
foot of a hill on the slope of which two blocks of stone 
project, one above the other. One of these stones is 
supposed to represent a male kangaroo, the other a 
female kangaroo. The headman of the totem clan 
with a man who is in the relation of mother's uncle to 
him climbs up to the two blocks and rubs them with a 
stone. They then repair to a rocky ledge, supposed to 
be haunted by the spirits of ancestral kangaroos, and 
paint it with stripes of red and white to indicate the 
red fur and white bones of the kangaroo. When this is 
done a number of the young men sit on the top of the 
ledge, while the men below sing of the increase of the 
kangaroos. Blood letting follows. " The men open 
veins in their arms and allow the blood to stream out on 
to and over the ledge of the sacred ceremonial stone 
which represents the spot where a celebrated kangaroo 
of the Alcheringa went down into the earth, its spirit 
part remaining in the stone which arose to mark the 
place." * According to Spencer and Gillen the purpose 
of the ceremonies is to drive out in all directions the 
spirits of the kangaroos and so to increase the number 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 462. 



126 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of the animals. 1 Strehlow, however, maintains that 
the rite makes real kangaroos, with living bodies, 
appear. 2 

After the rite has been duly performed the young 
men go and hunt the kangaroo, bringing their spoils 
back to the camp. Here, the old men with the Ala- 
tunja in their midst, eat a little of the flesh of the animal 
and anoint the bodies of those who took part in the 
Intichiuma with its fat, after which the meat is divided 
among all the men assembled. The men then decorate 
themselves with totemic designs and the night is spent 
in singing songs relating to the exploits of the Alcher- 
inga men. When this has been done the animal may 
be eaten sparingly. 3 

In the Idnimita totem, when the Intichiuma cere- 
monies for increasing the supply of the grub have been 
duly performed, and the grub has become plentiful, 
the men who do not belong to the totem collect the 
insects and bring them into the camp. There they lay 
their store before the Alatunja and the men of the totem, 
who eat some of the smaller grubs and hand back the 
remainder to the men who do not belong to the totem. 
After this the men of the totem may eat sparingly of 
the grub. 

Likewise, after the ceremonies have been performed 
for increasing the number of the bandicoots, the men 
who do not belong to that totem go out in search of a 
bandicoot, and when they have it they bring it into 
the camp, and then put some of the animal's fat into 
the mouths of the bandicoot men, and also rub it over 
their own bodies. After this the bandicoot men may 
eat a little of their totem. 4 

With variations the same rite is found among the 



Op. cit., p. 206. 2 III, p. 7. 

"Native Tribes," p. 204. 4 "Native Tribes," pp. 205!. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 127 

Urabunna, 1 the Kaitish, 2 the Unmatjera, 3 and in the 
Encounter Bay Tribe. 4 The Northern tribes (Warra- 
munga, Walpari, Umbaia) show traces of the rite having 
once been practised by them ; inasmuch as the sacred 
flesh of the totem is presented to the chief, who refuses 
it, giving permission at the same time to the men of 
the totem to eat it freely. 5 Everywhere it is made up 
of the same essential elements. A small quantity of 
the sacred food is given to the headman, who solemnly 
eats it. Thus, the sacredness of the totem is trans- 
ferred to the totemite. Every member of the clan con- 
tains a mystic substance within him of which his very 
soul consists, and through which he obtains his social 
as well as his religious status. Even at death he is 
thought to be gathered unto his totem. 

It is therefore not remarkable that the men of a 
totem should periodically strive to enter into sacra- 
mental relations with the fountain and source of all 
life. To whom else can they go for the all-important 
quality, and how else can it be obtained but by assi- 
milating the sacred flesh of the species ? So it comes 
about that at the time of year when the forces animat- 
ing the totemic species attain their maximum intensity, 
as manifested by the harvest, the men of the group seize 
the opportunity of holding religious as opposed to 
magical rites for the express purpose of entering into 
sacramental relations with what to them is the essence 
of sacredness, and the well-spring of life. Thus, the 
Australian regenerates himself spiritually. 

There are other ceremonies connected with Intichi- 
uma which may help to show that these rites taken 
collectively contain all the germs of the sacrificial system. 

1 " Northern Tribes/' pp. 286 f. 

2 Op. cit., p. 294. 3 Op. cit., p. 296. 
4 Woods, " Native Tribes South Australia.," p. 187. 
6 " Northern Tribes," p. 318. 



128 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

In the Unjiamba or Hakea-flower totem an Intichiuma 
ceremony is performed by the men of the Bukhara 
and Banunga classes at a shallow, oval-shaped pit, by 
the side of which grows an ancient Hakea tree. In the 
centre of the depression is a small projecting and much 
worn block of stone, which is supposed to represent a 
mass of Hakea flowers, the tree being the Nanja tree 
of an Alcheringa woman whose re-incarnation is still 
alive. After the pit has been swept by an old Unjiamba 
man and songs sung inviting the tree to flower much 
and the blossoms to be full of honey, " the old leader 
asks one of the young men to open a vein in his arm, 
which he does, and allows the blood to sprinkle freely, 
while the other men continue the singing. The blood 
flows until the stone is completely covered." 1 This 
done the ceremony is complete. The stone is regarded 
as a Churinga, and the spot is forbidden to the women, 
children and the uninitiated. In other words the cere- 
mony has established a blood bond between the totem 
and the totemites, and the place is therefore rendered 
sacred and tabu. 

A similar blood ceremony performed in connexion 
with the kangaroo totem has been described as an 
example of an Australian sacramental meal. The im- 
portant part played by blood in making a vital connex- 
ion with the sacred world can hardly be overestimated. 
Thus, Dr. Trumbull, a thoughtful writer, is led to say : 
" Beyond the idea of inspiration through an interflow 
of God-representing blood, there has been in primitive 
man's mind (however it came there) the thought of a 
possible inter-communion with God through an inter- 
communion with God by blood. God is life. All life 
is from God, and belongs to God. Blood is life. Blood, 
therefore, as life, may be a means of man's inter-union 
with God. As the closest and most sacred covenants 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 184, 185. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 129 

between man and man ; as, indeed, an absolute 
merging of two human natures into one — is a possibility 
through an inter-flowing of a common blood ; so the 
closest and most sacred of covenants between God and 
man, so the inter-union of the human and the Divine, 
has been looked upon as a possibility, through the 
proffer and acceptance of a common life in a common 
blood-flow. 

" Whatever has been man's view of sin and its punish- 
ment, and of his separation from God because of unfor- 
given sin (I speak now of man as he is found, without 
the specific teaching of the Bible on the subject) he 
has counted blood — his own blood, in actuality or by 
substitute — a means of inter-union with God, or with 
the gods. Blood is not death, but life. The shedding 
of blood, Godward, is not the taking of life, but the 
giving of life. The outflowing of blood towards God is 
an act of gratitude or of affection, a proof of loving 
confidence, a means of inter-union. This seems to 
have been the universal primitive conception of the 
race. And an evidence of man's trust in the accom- 
plished fact of his inter-union with God, or with the 
gods, by blood, has been the also universal practice of 
man's inter-communion with God, or with the gods, 
by his sharing, in food-partakings, of the body of the 
sacrificial offering, whose blood is the means of Divine- 
human inter-union." l 

Of course it is not implied, by inserting this quotation 
here, that this conception was necessarily definitely 
present in extenso in the aboriginal mind when simple 
blood ceremonies were performed, or the totem eaten 
sacramentally. But in the Australian Intichiuma rites 
most of the essential principles of the later institution 
of sacrifice are present. After the totemic animal has 
been killed, the Alatunja and the old men solemnly eat 
1 " Blood Covenant," pp. 147, 148. 

9 



130 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

it, and thus assimilate the sacredness of the theanthropic 
animal. The chief difference between this and the 
later forms of sacrifice lies in the animal in this case 
being naturally sacred, while ordinarily it acquires this 
character during the rite. But the mystic sacramental 
union between the totem and the totemite is none the 
less maintained by the ceremonies that terminate the 
Intichiuma. A man of the witchetty grub totem be- 
lieves himself to be a witchetty grub. In order to keep 
this quality he assimilates the flesh of the creature that 
he may dwell in the grub, and the grub in him. The 
solemn preparations show with what reverential awe 
these sacramental meals are regarded by the natives. 
The fasts, the Churinga, the totemic decorations, the 
sacred rocks, etc., all testify to the sacred atmosphere 
surrounding the mysteries. 

In the blood ceremonies we see exemplified the means 
whereby a blood covenant is made with the totem to 
prevent the totems from vanishing from the land. By 
opening a vein in his arm upon the kangaroo rocks, or 
eating the flesh of the sacred animal, or having its fat — 
a substance which with the Australian ranks equally 
with the blood as regards potency — rubbed on his body, 
a union of a sacramental nature is established with the 
totem. True, the present generation of natives explain 
the ceremonies by saying that they drive out in all 
directions the spirits of the kangaroos, etc., and so in- 
crease the number of the animals. 1 But, as Spencer 
and Gillen point out, the one essential feature of the 
ceremonies for the totemite is " the necessity of identify- 
ing himself closely with his totem." 2 By the partaking 
of a sacramental meal an alliance is made with the super- 
natural ally, the mana concentrated in the victim 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 206. Strehlow, " Zeitschrift f. Ethnol.," 
iii., pp. 7 and 12, ver. 7. 

2 " J. A. I.," xxviii., p. 278. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 131 

(especially in its blood) going out and giving strength 
to the communicant, neutralizing his infirmities by 
drawing them into itself. Therefore, it is contended, 
that in what Dr. Marett calls the " pre-animistic " type 
of religion, 1 the earliest attempts at sacrifice were means 
whereby the worshippers were placed in physical con- 
tact, after a sacramental manner, with their totem- 
It is only when animistic and theistic conceptions arise 
that offerings of food are made to divine beings, to secure 
their favour or minimize their hostility. True, the 
Australians have a very real belief in tribal All-fathers, 
but only as remote anthropomorphic beings in need 
of nothing that man can give. It has yet to be proved 
that they are the recipients of sacrificial gifts. 

The theory of Durkheim that both the essential forms 
of sacrifice — the act of oblation and the act of com- 
munion — are found in germinal form in the Intichiuma 
rites 2 rests on the evidence of Strehlow that the hymn 
which is sung at the Intichiuma of the kangaroo de- 
scribes the offering of a morsel of kangaroo fat to make 
the fat of the kangaroos increase. 3 Apart from this 
instance, and from offerings to the dead consisting of 
stone hatchets, clubs, water, and in modern times 
matches, 4 there is no evidence of gift-sacrifice in Aus- 
tralia. 

In the development of the rite, however, gifts to 
supernatural beings, and piacular or propitiatory offer- 
ings of an atoning nature, soon came into force. Thus, 
among the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast of 
West xAJrica trees distinguished by a girdle of palm- 
leaves (supposed to be animated by Huntin) may not 
be cut down without the native woodman first purging 

1 " The Threshold of Religion," p. xxi. 

2 " Les Formes Elementaires de la Vie Religieuse," p. 484. 

3 " Zeitschrift f. Ethnol.," p. 12, ver. 7. 

4 Howitt, p. 463. 



132 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

himself of sacrilege by offering a sacrifice of fowls and 
palm-oil to the indwelling god. 1 The Masai propitiate 
the subugo tree, the bark of which has medical proper- 
ties, by pouring the blood of a goat at the foot of the 
trunk and strewing grass on the branches. 2 The natives 
of Bantoc, in the north of Luzon, deposit food under 
certain trees which are regarded as the abode of the 
spirits of their ancestors. 3 In Laos, before a stranger 
can be accorded hospitality, the master of the house is 
required to offer sacrifice, in the form of cattle, etc., to 
the ancestral spirits, lest they be offended and send 
disease on the household. 4 Likewise, in the island of 
Timor, after a successful head-hunting expedition 
sacrificial gifts are offered to appease the soul of the 
victim. 5 A portion of the new fruits are invariably 
offered to the gods in agricultural communities, before 
they are eaten by the people. 6 

In addition to offering a portion of the first-fruits to 
a spirit or god, the new crops are often eaten sacramen- 
tally. Thus, in Nicaragua, at the time of maize gather- 
ings grains of corn were strewn around the altar. Over 
these the worshippers stood, and with flint knives let 
blood from the most sensitive parts of their bodies fall 
on the grains. These were then eaten sacramentally. 7 

Something similar obtained in Peru. At the time 
of the vernal equinox, all strangers were forbidden to 
leave the sacred city of Cuzco, where the Inca resided. 
A human victim was immolated, and the spotless " Vir- 
gins of the Sun ' ' were deputed to mingle his blood with 
meal and bake it into small cakes. These were distri- 

1 Ellis, " Ewe-speaking Peoples," p. 49. 

2 Sir H. Johnston, " The Uganda Protectorate," ii., p. 832. 

3 " Golden Bough," Pt. II, p. 30. 

4 Op. cit., Pt. Ill, p. 104. 

5 Op. cit., p. 166. 

6 Op. cit., Pt. VIII, vol. ii. 

7 Oviedo. " Historia de las Indias," x., chap. xi. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 133 

butcd among the people and eaten, and one was sent 
to every shrine and temple in the kingdom. 1 Dr. Frazer 
gives numerous examples of the killing and sacramental 
eating of the corn-spirit in its various representations. 2 
Of all the instances cited, the most remarkable, from 
the theological standpoint, is the custom among the 
Aztecs of sacramentally eating bread as the body of 
the god Huitzile-poetilli or Vitzilipuztli. 

Before the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards the 
Aztecs made their principal feast in the month of May. 
Two days before this feast the virgins mingled a quan- 
tity of the seed of the beets with roasted maize, moulding 
it with honey. Thus, a life-sized symbolical represen- 
tation of the god was constructed, and clad by the noble- 
men in a rich garment, who carried it in a chair on their 
shoulders to an appointed place. On the morning of 
the feast the maidens, attired in white and crowned 
and bedecked with garlands of maize, carried the image 
to the foot of the great pyramid-shaped Temple, amid 
the strains of instrumental music. They then came 
out of their convent and delivered pieces of the paste 
whereof the idol was made to the young men, who 
carried them up and laid them at the feet of the image. 
These they called the flesh and bones of Vitzilipuztli. 
Singing and dancing and other ceremonies followed, by 
means of which they were blessed and consecrated for 
the flesh and bones of the idol. Men were then sacri- 
ficed, and at noon the people reverently sacramentally 
partook, fasting, of the life of Vitzilipuztli. The sacra- 
ment was then carried to the sick. 

The Aztecs, however, did not content themselves 
with eating their god in the outward and visible shape 
of bread and grain. They craved for a closer union 
with Uving God, and so they fortified the dough with 

1 Balbao, " Histoire du Perou," p. 125. 

2 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. V, chap. x. 



134 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

human blood. A you4h_was chosen and named for 
the'god. For months the person thus doomed to play 
the fatal part of divinity was allowed to roam the streets 
of Mexico freely, escorted by a distinguished retinue, 
who paid him as much respect as if he had indeed been 
the god himself instead of his image. Fie was permitted 
to taste all the joys of the transient world to which he 
was soon to bid farewell. At the expiration of the set 
time he was slain on the altar and his fresh blood was 
mixed with dough, which was, as in the former case, 
divided among the worshippers and eaten. 1 Thus, 
they became partakers of the divine nature. 

It is, of course, difficult to think of the divine nature 
immanent in inanimate substances, but the further 
psychological history is traced back, the vaguer becomes 
the distinction between the animate and the inanimate 
world. Thus, in Australia food becomes sacred and 
charged with divine potency, when touched by a chief, 
or some sacred object. When the products of hunting 
or gathering are brought in to be thrown in the tribal 
store the principal men of the hunting group begin by 
eating a little of the food, after which the food is only 
tabu to the hunters. 2 Here again is sacramental sig- 
nificance. 

Dr. Farnell shows that this conception was probably 
present in pre-Homeric religion. " Certain external 
objects used in ritual were regarded as mysteriously 
charged with divinity, so that those who handled them 
were brought into communion with the deity through 
physical contact." 3 The sacred boughs or " kXcxSol, 
borne in the hands of Bacchic Mystse, are themselves 
called by the very name of the god, /3o.kxol. The 

1 Sahagon, " Histoire generate des choses de la Nouvelle- 
Espagne," pp. 203 f. 

2 Native Tribes Central Australia," p. 167. 

3 " Hibbert Journal," Jan. '04, p. 309. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 135 

Pythoness at Delphi and the prophet at Klaros enter 
into the divine communion which induces ecstasy by 
drinking of the sacred water in which the spirit of the 
divinity is thought to reside." 1 

In Egyptian sacrifice the idea was not that of a burnt 
offering in order that the sweet smelling odour might 
ascend to heaven, but that of setting out a table of 
food for the god. Thus, the god and his worshippers 
feasted together, and portions of the meal were assigned 
to each. 2 This custom survived as late as the second 
century a.d., when the Temple feasts were looked upon 
as occasions when men " dined at the table of the Lord 
Serapis in the Serapeum." 3 From very early times the 
animal-gods were eaten sacramentally, as, for instance, 
at Memphis, where the sacred bulls were eaten except- 
ing the head and bones which were carefully preserved 
(XIX. Dynasty). The sacred ram was likewise killed 
and eaten sacramentally at Thebes. 

Mr. Blackman is of the opinion that the burning of 
incense and the pouring of libations, which are so closely 
associated in the funeral and Temple ritual in the Pyra- 
mid Texts, are performed for the same purpose, namely, 
to revivify the body of god and man by restoring to it 
its lost moisture. Under the form of libations it was 
believed that either the actual fluids that had run from 
it, or those of Osiris himself, were communicated to 
the corpse. In the case of fumigation with incense it 
is the latter of these two ideas, he thinks, that has pre- 
vailed, namely, that the body was revivified, not by the 
restoration of its own exudations, but by receiving those 
of Osiris. 4 If Mr. Blackman can succeed in proving 
this theory, the rites of libations and incense will be 

1 Op. cit., p. 312. 

2 "Twentieth Dynasty Harris Papyrus," 

3 " Oxyrh. Papyr.," i, p. 177. 

4 " Incense and Libations in Temple and Funerary Ritua I.' 



136 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

shown to be of the nature of sacramental offering, by 
which certain powers and virtues were supposed to be 
mysteriously imbibed by the recipient. 

According to Naville the original idea of sacrifice in 
Egypt is that of communion with the deity by a vicar- 
ious human sacrifice. 1 An ancient myth, he says, tells 
how the destruction of mankind by the gods was averted 
by vicarious sacrifice. Ra is represented as saying to 
mortals, "Your sins are behind you: slaughter averteth 
slaughter, hence arise sacrifices." Does this refer to 
an establishment of right relations between a human 
being and a deity by means of a vicarious human sacri- 
fice ? It is difficult to say, but, at any rate, the custom 
apparently originated in a subconscious endeavour to 
establish a real union between the deity and the 
worshipper. 

Closely akin to the sacrifice of the Ram god at Thebes 
is the sacramental eating of the bear among the Ainus. 
A cub is suckled by a woman, and treated with great 
affection by the whole community. It is then addressed 
in the following manner : " O thou divine one, thou 
wast sent into the world for us to hunt. O thou precious 
little divinity, we worship thee ; pray hear our prayer. 
We have nourished thee and brought thee up with a 
great deal of pains and trouble, all because we love thee 
so. Now, as thou hast grown big, we are about to send 
thee to thy father and mother. When thou comest 
to them please speak well of us, and tell them how kind 
we have been ; please come to us again and we will 
sacrifice thee again." 2 It is then strangled and squeezed 
to death by all the people. An arrow is discharged into 
its heart by a crack shot so as to avoid any of its blood 
being spilt. Sometimes the blood is drunk by the men 
in order that they may assimilate the strength and virtue 

1 " The Old Egyptian Faith." 

2 " Ainus and then Folk-lore" (Batchelor), p. 186. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 137 

of the animal. Prayers are addressed to it, and the 
" cup of offering," consisting of the broiled meat offered 
to the bear, is then partaken of by all the people. Not 
to partake of the sacred meal would be equivalent to 
excommunication, since it would place the recreant 
outside the pale of iVinu fellowship. 1 

The desire for union with the deity may be traced 
through various stages of the development of Greek 
cult in classical times. In the Hellenic Mysteries the 
idea was clearer and more emphatically expressed than 
anywhere else in Greek or Rome. Participation in these 
was described as a means of life in the "world below." 2 
The purificatory and propitiatory ceremonies with 
which the Eleusinian Mysteries began, led up to the 
symbolic meal in which the worshipper held mystic 
and personal communion with the deity. 3 In this con- 
nexion Dr. Jevons maintains that the great power and 
attractiveness of such mysteries as those of Eleusis 
arose from their conservation and development of the 
more ancient and higher idea of sacrifice, of a com- 
munion service, in which the worshipper partook of the 
very substance of the divinity, and thus became vitally 
united to him, while the public ritual had everywhere 
developed into a lifeless ceremony of gift-offerings. 

Both Dr. Farnell and Dr. Frazer are unable to accept 
Jevons' conclusions that the Mysteries are developed 
out of sacramental meals connected with an Eleusinian 
communion-totem. 4 On the other hand, Mr. Andrew 
Lang and M. Solomon Reinach support Jevons in ex- 
plaining the Greek ritual on a totemic basis. M. Reinach 
claims that when the Greeks became agriculturists the 

1 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. VIII, pp. 180-185. 

2 Sophocles, " Fragments," p. 719. 

3 Hatch, " Hibbert Lectures," 1888, pp. 289, 290. 

4 " Golden Bough," hi., Pt. II, p. 293 ; and Farnell, " Cult of 
Greek States," hi., pp. 194-197. 



138 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

totemic rites of the nomads and shepherds, instead of 
completely vanishing, received a new interpretation in 
myth and rite. Thus, the Aktaion myth, he thinks, 
arose from a sacramental rending (o-Trapay/xos) of 
the stag by women-worshippers masquerading as 
" hinds " in honour of Artemis, the hind goddess of the 
totem clan. The traditional legend would arise from a 
semi-rationalistic interpretation of an old communion 
sacrifice. 1 Such a sacramental o-n-apay/Aos was a feature 
of Dionysiac ritual in which the Maenads aimed at 
securing communion with their deity to increase vege- 
tation. Dr. Farnell, however, thinks that the Boeotian 
Aktaion was originally Bacchic. 2 

On Frazer's hypothesis that myths concerning Diony- 
sos, Attis, etc., originated in vegetation-spirits rather 
than as totems, the sacramental principle is still pre- 
served, since he admits the sacramental character in 
the harvest supper. 3 

Dr. Farnell, though rejecting the idea of an anticipa- 
tion of the Christian Eucharist in the Eleusinian Mys- 
teries, is ready to allow the communion element in the 
Attis-Cybele mysteries of Phrygian origin. 4 Here the 
fusion of the mortal with the divinity was brought 
about by a blood-ritual and rites of a coarser symbolism, 
but partly by a sacramental meal of bread and wine 
or some other liquid, " eaten by the Attis- votary as 
the very substance or body of his divinity, for in the 
liturgy of Attis he was himself called the ' Cornstalk.' He 
was then the mystic Bread in a sense in which Demeter 
(in the Eleusinian rites) is never found to have been. 
And this is a close pagan parallel to the dogma of tran- 
substantiation." 

1 " Cultes, Mythes et Religions," iii. 

2 " Classical Studies," '08. 

3 " Golden Bough," Pt. I, p. 358. 

4 " Hibbert Journal," Jan. '40, p. 316. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 139 

The character of the whole ritual of the Cybele cult 
was sacramental, inasmuch as its aim was in various 
ways to establish communion with the deity. Thus, 
" Gallos " was himself called Kvfirjfios, the male counter- 
part of the goddess ; and the high-priest at Pessinus 
was himself Attis, a divine priest-king, supposed at 
one time to have been in union with the godhead. The 
catechumen was brought into sacramental communion 
with the divine in various ways. One of these is the 
Taurobolion, or laver of regeneration. It consisted in 
the person standing in a pit covered with planks pierced 
full of holes. A bull was then slain on the platform 
above, the blood drenching the votary below. Another 
method of effecting regeneration was by means of a 
mystic marriage, whereby a corporeal union was estab- 
lished with the divinity. Or again, the catechumen 
could attain to a divine existence through sacramental 
food. " I have eaten from the cymbal ; I have become 
a mystic votary of Attis," was the confessional formula 
of these mysteries. 1 

Dr. Farnell, in examining the blood offerings of Hellas, 
concludes that the Arcadian legend of King Lykaon, 
who kills and serves up in a banquet his infant son to 
Zeus Lykaios, preserves a reminiscence of a real canni- 
balistic communion-sacrifice, in which the son of the 
god-king or the god-priest dies sacramentally, and his 
flesh is tasted by the worshippers. He also regards 
as sacramental the Thracian worship of Dionysos, and 
its legend of cannibalism, making the Chian ritual (in 
honour of Dionysos, 'fi/u'Sios, " the devourer of raw 
flesh ") a descendant of the cannibal-sacrament of 
Thrace. 

In Samothrace the sacrifice appears to have been the 
essential feature of the ritual, although it is not certain 
that the idea of the god's incarnation in the victim was 
1 " Cult of Greek States, Vol. I, p. 3c o. 



140 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

present, and therefore that the sacrificial meal was also 
a sacramental communion. But an inscription in 
Bucharest, referring to the Kabeiroi mysteries, may 
indicate the mystic ritual of the administration of holy 
bread and drink to the fxv<rr ai by the priest. At any 
rate, enough of the document is preserved to show the 
importance of the sacramental cup. 1 

In the case of the mysterious fiov^ovia at the Diipolia 
on the acropolis at Athens, Dr. Farnell inclines to agree 
with Professor Robertson Smith in regarding the ox 
as a " theanthropic " animal, voluntarily sacrificed to 
establish a sacramental union between the whole com- 
munity (and even the stranger who partakes of the 
sacred flesh with them) and the sacrosanct animal. 2 
This seems a more satisfactory explanation of the rites 
than Frazer's view that the ox represents the corn- 
spirit sacramentally devoured at the close of harvest 
in order that he may rise with fresher powers of pro- 
duction. 3 On the former hypothesis the original Adonis 
sacrifice would be the sacramental offering of sacred 
swine to the swine-god — a sacramental mystery wherein 
the participators attested their kinship to the animal- 
god, immolating an otherwise tabu animal. 

The evidence here briefly summarized shows that 
from pre-Homeric days downwards the idea of sacrificial 
communion persisted in Greece. It was not merely a 
secret of Eleusis, but finds a prominent place in the state- 
religion, especially in the semi-Hellenic Mysteries of 
the Orphic-Dionysos and Attis-Cybele. Its influence 
on moral and spiritual growth did good service in pre- 
paring men for Christianity. The conception under- 
lying the communion with the deity by initiation into 
mysteries broke up the old national exclusive cults, 

1 " Ejicycl. of Rel. and Ethics," art. " Kabeiroi." 

2 " Cult of Greek States," Vol. I, pp. 88 f. 

3 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. II, pp. 88 ff. 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 141 

and set forth the " beatitude " that only the pure in 
heart may see God, and enter into communion with 
Him. The sacraments were offered to all mankind 
regardless of race, the only bar being a moral one. The 
ceremony opened with proclamations of the need of 
purity ; the candidates confessed their sins, and after- 
wards were baptized in the sea. These preliminary 
rites of purification and abstinence extended over 
several days that a good communion might be made. 
The Hellenic Mysteries failed, however, to hold out 
to the worshippers a superhuman ideal, and, there- 
fore, at most they could be but a preparation for, 
and an anticipation of, the Incarnation of the Christ, 
Who was at once perfect God and perfect Man — the 
Ideal. 

The system, however, that presents the closest resem- 
blance to the fulfilment of all sacramental tendencies 
is the cult of Mithra, the Persian god of light. He 
was conceived as offering a perpetual sacrifice, in which 
" the faithful " might partake through fasting, pen- 
ance, initiation and a series of probations in ascending 
grades, which finally should lead them to the " Beatific 
Vision " — the complete union of man with the divine. 
The celebration of the much-discussed Mithraic Euchar- 
ist consisted in a sacred communion of bread, water, 
and possibly wine administered to the mystics who were 
entering upon one of the advanced degrees. The rite 
probably commemorated the banquet of Mithra and 
Helios, before the former's ascension, and it tended to 
produce strength of body, wisdom, prosperity, power 
to resist evil, and participation in the immortality 
enjoyed by the god himself. 

Mithraism is " perhaps the highest and most striking 
example of the last effort of paganism to reconcile itself 
to the great moral and spiritual movement . . . towards 
purer conceptions of God and man's relation to Him 



142 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

and of the life to come." 1 It is probably because Mith- 
raism was the last link in the chain of religious evolu- 
tion that was to find its goal in Christianity, and there- 
fore naturally bore a superficial resemblance to its nobler 
successor, that its rites were considered by Justin Mar- 
tyr ("Apol.," i., p. 66),Tertullian ("De Baptismo," C.S.) 
and other of the Fathers as diabolical parodies of the 
Christian sacraments — an attitude adopted by Spanish 
missionaries regarding the Aztec sacramental rites. 
The reverent psychologist, however, sees in the universal 
sacramental tendencies connected with blood-bonds, 
sacramental meals, and kindred rites, the inherent 
yearnings of the feeble soul to reach out towards, and 
make itself part of the Divine Nature. He discovers 
that a progressive revelation is not confined to the Jews ; 
it is rather like the Christian Church, catholic in its 
appeal. From simple and very primitive rites, often 
having for their purpose, at least in part, the supply 
of the food that is necessary for the body, the sacra- 
mental system, whereby the soul is fed and nourished 
(St. John vi. 48-58), has, in the process of time, evolved. 
Thus, the universal craving of mankind for union with 
His Maker has been effectually satisfied. The Incar- 
nation and its extension in the sacramental system of 
the Church is God's answer to the individual cry of 
man in all ages, the Eucharist being the point to which 
all sacrificial ideas, in germinal form and in maturity, 
have been pointing from the most primitive times. 
Although we have arrived at the conclusion by some- 
what different means from those adopted by Dr. Jevons, 
the closing remarks of his work, " An Introduction to 
the History of Religion," express the principle it has 
been the purpose of this chapter to set forth : — 

" Sacrifice and the sacrificial meal which followed 

1 Dill, " Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius," p. 
585- 



SACRIFICE AND COMMUNION 143 

it are institutions which are or have been universal. 
The sacramental meal, wherever it exists, testifies to 
man's desire for the closest union with his god, and to 
his consciousness of the fact that it is upon such union 
alone that right relations with his fellow-man can be 
set. But before there can be a sacramental meal there 
must be a sacrifice. That is to say, the whole human 
race for thousands of years has been educated to the 
conception that it was only by a divine sacrifice that 
perfect union with God was possible for man. At times 
the sacramental conception of sacrifice appeared about 
to degenerate entirely into the gift theory ; but then, 
in the sixth century B.C., the sacramental conception 
woke into new life, this time in the form of a search 
for a perfect sacrifice — a search which led Clement and 
Cyprian to try all the mysteries of Greece in vain. But 
of all the great religions of the world it is the Christian 
Church alone which is so far heir of all the ages as to 
fulfil the dumb, dim, expectations of mankind : in it 
alone the sacramental meal commemorates by ordinance 
of its Founder, the Divine Sacrifice which is a propitia- 
tion for the sins of all mankind." 



CHAPTER X 

RITES ASSOCIATED WITH THE 
CONSECRATED LIFE 

Methods of making medicine men in Australia: (i) by spirits, 
(2) by Oruncha, a special class of mischievous spirits, (3) by 
other medicine men — Methods employed by (a) other central 
tribes, (b) the Anula, (c) the south-east tribes — The " visit " to 
the camp of Baiame — A seance among the Kurnai — The func- 
tion of the medicine man — The methods adopted in effecting 
a cure, and their relation to auto-suggestion — The manner of 
using the " death bone." — The relation of the magician to the 
priest — The diviner — The Ephod, the Urim and the Thummim — 
Tabus imposed on the priesthood — The conception of priest- 
hood and the consecrated life in the Christian Church. 

IN most societies magiq, in some of its aspects, may 
be performed by any one who has sufficient know- 
ledge of the necessary ritual ; in other cases the 
magician is the specialist who performs his functions 
by virtue of his birth, or by initiation either by spirits 
or by other magicians. Thus, among the Arunta, 
medicine men, as the workers of magic are usually 
termed, are admitted to their office by three methods : 
(1) Those made by the Iruntarinia or spirits ; (2) those 
made by the Oruncha — a special class of spirits of a 
mischievous nature ; (3) those initiated by other medi- 
cine men. Sometimes the three orders practise side by 
side, though the first two are more highly esteemed 
than the third. 

Messrs. Spencer and Gillen describe the making of a 
medicine man of the Alice Springs group by the Irun- 

144 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 145 

tarinia. 1 About fourteen miles south of Alice Springs 
there is a cave supposed to be occupied by the Irun- 
tarinia, each of whom is in reality the double of one of 
the ancestors of the tribe who lived in the Alcheringa. 
These spirit-individuals are thought to be endowed 
with the power of making medicine men. Therefore, 
when a man feels he is capable of becoming one, he 
goes to the mouth of the cave and lies down to sleep. 
Were he to go inside he would be spirited away for ever- 
At daybreak one of the Inintarinia comes to the mouth 
of the cave and throws an invisible arrow at the sleeper, 
which pierces his neck from behind, passes through his 
tongue, making a large hole, and then comes out through 
his mouth. The hole is the only outward and visible 
sign of the validity of the claims of the newly initiated 
magician. How the hole is really made it is impossible 
to say, but that it is there is beyond dispute. A second 
lance thrown by the Inintarinia pierces the novice from 
ear to ear. This is supposed to kill him. He is then 
carried into the depths of the cave, which is thought 
to extend to a depth of ten miles. (It is in the far 
recesses of this cavern that the Inintarinia are said to 
live in perpetual sunshine amongst streams of running 
water — a conception not far removed from that of 
Paradise.) Within the cave the Inintarinia remove 
the internal organs and provide the man with a com- 
pletely new set, together with a supply of magic Atnon- 
gara stones. He comes to life again in a state of tem- 
porary insanity, which passes off in a few days. When 
he is once more in his right mind he paints a broad band 
across the bridge of his nose, as a sign that he is a duly 
graduated medicine man. He does not practise for a 
year, and if at the end of that time the hole in his tongue 
closes up, he does not pursue his profession at all. 
Meanwhile he learns from other medicine men the 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 523 ft. 
IQ 



146 rRTMTTIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

secrets of the craft. This consists chiefly in sleight 
of hand. 

Should the Atnongara stones by any chance leave his 
body and return to the Iruntarinia the man's powers 
will at once depart. Occasionally a one-time medicine 
man is met with who has been the victim of this fate. 
Certain foods such as fat, warm meat, etc., are tabu to 
him on peril of losing his powers. A bite from the 
" bull-dog ant," or to inhale the smoke from burning 
bones have a like effect. Even the loud barking of the 
camp dogs will sometimes cause the Atnongara stones 
to take flight. 

The method of procedure in making a medicine man 
by the Oruncha is similar to that of the Iruntarinia, the 
only difference being that instead of the man being 
taken into a cave he is taken down into the earth at the 
spot at which the Oruncha lives. Women doctors, 
though of rare occurrence, are usually made by this 
method. 

The third method — that of initiation by other medi- 
cine men, is quite different from the other procedures. 
The candidate at the upper Fiske river is taken to a 
secluded spot by other medicine men called Nung-gara, 
and sworn to secrecy. The Nung-gara then withdraw 
from their bodies a number of small crystals called 
Ultunda (the equivalent of the Atnongara of the Alice 
Springs), which are placed one by one, as they are ex- 
tracted, in the hollow of a spear-thrower. The assist- 
ant then tightly clasps the candidate from behind, and 
the Nung-gara presses some crystals slowly and strongly 
along the front of the leg and up the body to the sternum. 
Thus, the magic crystals are supposed to be forced into 
the body. The operator then goes some distance away 
and pretends to project some of the crystals into the 
man's head, meanwhile, the left hand, holding some of 
the crystals, is placed on the right and jerked back- 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 147 

wards and forwards. The body is then again scored 
with stones and a crystal pressed hard on the head. 

Next one of the Nung-gara makes a hole under the 
nail of the first finger of the man's right hand, into which 
he pretends to pass a crystal. After allowing him to 
go to sleep for a while the scoring is continued at various 
intervals during the day. In the evening he is given 
meat to eat in which are Ultunda, and then water con- 
taining crystals, which he is told are Ultunda. This 
method of feeding and the scoring is continued two days 
following. On the third day his tongue is pierced with 
a flint Ultunda, and his body painted with the Murilla 
— the sacred drawing of the Oruncha. Fur string bands 
are then placed on his head, with leaves of a gum tree 
hanging down over the forehead. He is put under a 
ban of silence till the wound in his tongue is healed. 
He must also abstain from eating fat of any kind, and 
the flesh of wild dogs, fish or Echnida for a long time. 
When he is recovered he is allowed to go to his own camp, 
though he must talk very little and be temperate in all 
things. At night he sleeps with a fire between him and 
his Unawa to make him visible to the Oruncha, and avoid 
any hindrance to his intercourse with the spirits. If he 
omitted to do this the magic power would leave him. 

The Unmatjera and Kaitish tribes employ almost 
identical means in making medicine men. In the War- 
ramunga tribe they are usually made by old Worgaia 
men, though occasionally by a spirit called Puniider. 
Among the Binbinga the doctors are supposed to be 
made by spirits who are called Mundadji and Munkan- 
inki, father and son. An old medicine man of this tribe 
explained to Spencer and Gillen how he graduated in his 
profession. One day he walked into a cave in a hill, 
quite unaware that the two spirits were walking about. 
Before he knew what was happening old Mundadji 
caught him by the neck and killed him. Then he cut 



148 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

him open, took out his intestines and exchanged them 
for those of himself, which he placed in the body of 
Kurkutji. After this had been done, the younger spirit, 
Munkaninja, came up and restored him to life, telling 
him that he was now a medicine man and showed him 
how to take poison bones out of men. Then he took 
him up into the sky, and finally brought him down near 
the camp, where his people were mourning for him, 
thinking he was dead. When he recovered from his 
dazed condition the people knew he had been made 
into a medicine man. 1 He is now in great demand, 
even outside his own tribe. 

The Anula tribe has a practice distinct from that of 
the other central tribes. The profession is strictly 
hereditary in the members of the falling star totem- 
The doctor is called Munkani, and may be either a man 
or a woman. His or her powers, however, are confined 
to the giving of " bones." Evil magic is withdrawn by 
incantations without the assistance of the medicine 
man. In serious cases they employ the services of 
doctors from neighbouring tribes. 2 

In the south-east area the making of medicine men 
is performed in many different ways. In the Tonga- 
ranka tribe the office passes from father to son. In the 
Wiimbaio a man is initiated by being plastered with, 
and consuming part of, the body of a dead man. The 
Wotjobaluk believe crystals are inserted into the body 
by a supernatural being called Ngatya. The Theddora, 
Wolgal, and Ngarigo think that Daramulun is the source 
of magical powers ; the Port Jackson tribe initiate their 
medicine men by making them sleep on a grave. Dur- 
ing the sleep the spirit of the dead man is supposed to 
remove his internals and replace them. 

The Wiradjuri medicine men profess to go up to 

1 " Across Australia," ii., pp. 481-482. 

2 " Northern Tribes," pp. 488-489. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 149 

Baiame for their powers. Dr. Howitt was told by one 
of their magicians that he was taken by his father into 
the bush when a small boy and two large crystals were 
put against his breast, which vanished into him. He 
was then given water to drink in which crystals were 
placed. At the age of ten he was initiated and shown 
a crystal in the bush. When he looked at it his father 
appeared to go down into the earth and to come up 
covered with red dust. Next he was shown a dead man 
who rubbed him all over and gave him some Walking 
(crystals). His father showed him his secret totem 
(a tiger-snake) and by its aid he passed them through 
several tree trunks and finally saw a number of little 
Daramuluns, the sons of Baiame. They then visited 
Baiame's camp by means of mystic threads. On the 
one side he saw Baiame sitting in his camp. He was 
a very great old man with a long beard, and sat with his 
legs under him. From his shoulders extended two great 
quartz crystals to the sky above him. Around him 
were the " boys of Baiame and of his people." * 

In this story, which the narrator declares to be bona 
fide, there is food for thought for the theologian as well 
as for the psychologist. The theological significance 
of the experience will be dealt with in another connexion. 
As to the psychological interest attached to the narra- 
tive it suffices to say here that suggestion doubtless 
plays an important part in the initiation of medicine 
men, whose powers are certainly not entirely fictitious. 
The further study of psychic phenomena in primitive 
cult will probably conclusively prove that genuine 
occult powers are possessed by the vast majority of 
medicine men. Thus, among the Kurnai, the Bir- 
raark (the spirit medium as distinct from the Mulla- 
Mullung or medicine man proper) holds seances which 
bear a striking resemblance to the performances of 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 406-408. 



6r»wvet 



i 5 o PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

civilized " mediums." He is introduced to the land of 
ghosts at his initiation, and can subsequently return 
thither, it is supposed, at will. One of the cases related 
by Howitt describes a seance held at night in the camp. 
The fires were let go down, and then the Birraark 
uttered a loud coo-ee at intervals. At length a shrill 
whistle was heard, then the shrill whistling of the 
Mr arts (ghosts), first on one side and then on the other. 
Shortly after the sound as of persons jumping down to 
the ground in succession. This was the Mr arts, and a 
voice was then heard in the gloom, asking in a strange, 
muffled tone, " What is wanted ? " Questions were 
asked by the Birraarks, and replies given. At the ter- 
mination of the seance, the voice said " Where are you 
going ? " Finally, after all was over, the Birraark was 
found in the top of an almost inaccessible tree, appar- 
ently asleep, where he said the Mrarts had left him when 
they went away. At this seance the questions related 
to the movements of absent friends, and of their enemies 
the Brajerak." 1 

The chief function of the medicine man is to cure 
sickness. The natives have complete trust in his powers, 
probably because all ailments are attributed to the malign 
influence of an enemy in either human or spirit form. No 
reward of any kind is given or expected. If the patient 
recovers then the reputation of the doctor is enhanced ; 
if a cure is not wrought, the failure is put down to the 
malignant action of superior magic, exerted by a hostile 
being, in or out of the flesh. The method of curing 
takes the form of an exhibition of sleight of hand, the 
object being to remove from the body of the patient 
something, such as a pointing stick, or pieces of a 
Churinga, which have been placed in it by an enemy. 
The patient lies down, while the medicine man bends 

1 " Native Tribes South-Eastern Australia," p. 391. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 151 

over him and sucks vigorously at the part of the body 
affected, spitting out every now and then the pieces of 
wood or bone which are supposed to be causing the 
malady. Among the western Arunta the medicine 
man is thought to have a particular kind of lizard dis- 
tributed in his body, in addition to the Atnongara stones, 
which gives him suctorial powers. In serious cases the 
action is more dramatic. After a solemn diagnosis of 
the case, in which other " practitioners " not infre- 
quently assist, it is decided that the patient is suffer- 
ing from a charmed bone inserted by a magic individual, 
or that one of the Iruntarinia has placed in his body 
an Ullinka, or short barbed stick attached to an in- 
visible string, the pulling of which by the malicious 
enemy causes great pain. In such cases the skill of a 
renowned medicine man is necessary to effect a cure. 
The eminent doctor first of all stands close by the 
patient, gazing at him intently. He then recedes a few 
yards and looks at him fiercely, bends slightly forwards, 
and repeatedly jerks his arm outwards at full length, 
in order to project some of the Atnongara stones into 
the sick man's body, thus counteracting the evil magic 
at work in him. He repeats this movement with 
dramatic action, and finally comes close again and cuts 
the malign string, invisible to all but himself. The 
spectators are convinced that this is really done, and 
therefore auto-suggestion is brought to bear on the 
patient, which undoubtedly accounts for the recovery 
that not infrequently follows the efforts of a medicine 
man. To complete the restoration, once more he pro- 
jects the Atnongara stones, and then places his mouth 
on the affected part, and sucks until the Ullinka is ex- 
tracted, either in parts, or, as is less usual, in entirety. 
The illusion is complete, and, unless it is a case of senile 
decay, the man is cured. If he should fail the medicine 
man explains that his efforts have been thwarted by 



152 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

some Iruntarinia, or that the stick has been inserted in 
some vital part of the body. x 

In addition to the healing of the body, the medicine 
man is called upon to ascertain who is responsible for 
the death of a native, and to bring ill upon other people 
for various causes of enmity. After a death he will 
often state the direction in which the culprit lives, and 
even the group to which he belongs. It may be several 
years before he discovers the actual man, but sooner or 
later he does so. Although every man is supposed to 
have the power of bringing disease, etc., on individuals 
by magic, the medicine men, however, in most tribes, 
are thought to have special powers. They can assume 
the form of beasts (eagle-hawks, etc.) and thus dis- 
guised, travel long distances at night, doing much 
harm by sticking their claws into members of other 
tribes. 

One of the commonest forms of magic is the pointing 
of a bone or stick at an individual with the intention of 
injuring him. This is done by a man charming a piece 
of stick or bone about six inches long, and placing either 
of them in the ground, in a remote spot in the bush, 
and muttering curses over it. He leaves the charmed 
article in the secret hiding place for several days, and 
then removes it to within a short distance of the camp. 
Covered by the darkness he steals out, procures the 
deadly weapon, and stealthily approaches the enemy's 
camp. When well within sight of his victim he kneels 
down and jerks the stick towards him several times, 
mumbling a fierce incantation. This done he gropes 
his way back to his camp, conceals the implement, and, 
with an air of satisfaction, awaits the sickening and 
ultimate death of the victim. The end accomplished 
he destroys the charm as a sign of the destruction of 
the enemy's life. Absolute secrecy is necessary in 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 531-532. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 153 

carrying out a vicious performance of this kind, as were 
any man caught in the act he would be most severely 
punished, and most likely put to death. 1 

The medicine men of the tribe are usually on friendly 
terms with one another and consult among themselves 
when necessary concerning the person at whom a death- 
bone has been, -or is to be, pointed. At heart, neverthe- 
less, they do not trust one another, although they fre- 
quently have a genuine belief in their own powers. In 
this latter respect they are never wholly impostors. 
It is probably a common fear that holds them together ; 
without them the effect of the death-bone would be harm- 
less, sickness, considered in terms of magic, would con- 
sequently tend to disappear, or, on the other hand, to 
be incurable. Thus, a powerful weapon of revenge 
would be removed for ever. The office of the medicine 
man is therefore safeguarded by fear and expediency. 
Notwithstanding the importance of the doctor to the 
supposed well-being of the tribe, practitioners do not 
enjoy any extra privileges. They marry and engage 
in similar pursuits to the other individuals in the camp, 
they are liable to sickness and death through natural 
or even magical agencies, and not infrequently the evil 
they have devised for another is turned unto their own 
bosom. 

The close inter-relation which exists in primitive cult 
between magic and religion has led some anthropolo- 
gists to conclude that the magician is the forerunner 
and prototype of the priest. Thus, Dr. Frazer, who 
imagines that the king is the lineal successor through 
the priest of the medicine man, maintains that " when 
once a special class of sorcerers has been segregated 
from the community and entrusted by it with the 
charge of duties on which the public welfare and safety 
are believed to depend, these men gradually rise to 
1 " Native Tribes," pp. 532-536. 



154 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

wealth and power, till their leaders blossom into sacred 
kings. But the great social revolution which thus 
begins with democracy and ends in despotism is at- 
tended by intellectual revolution which affects both 
the conception and the function of royalty. For as 
time goes on, the fallacy of magic becomes more and 
more apparent to the acuter minds and is slowly dis- 
placed by religion ; in other words, the magician gives 
way to the priest, who, renouncing the attempt to con- 
trol directly the processes of nature for the good of man, 
seeks to attain the same end indirectly by appealing 
to the gods to do for him what he no longer fancies he 
can do for himself. Hence, the king, starting as a 
magician, tends gradually to exchange the practice of 
magic for the priestly functions of prayer and sacrifice." 1 

This conclusion is the logical outcome of the false 
premise that magic everywhere preceded religion ; 
man tried to control nature by using what he con- 
ceived to be immutable laws. This method failed and 
in consequence he came to believe in the existence of 
divine powers whom he could not control ; thus religion 
came into being. By the priest supplanting the magi- 
cian the warfare between magic and religion began, 
which ultimately concluded in a victory for the latter. 
This view is very simply stated, but unfortunately it 
does not account for the whole body of the rites and beliefs 
of primitive man. It cuts off from religion the entire 
Australian cult. Even rites which are supposed to be 
under the control of Daramulun and other High Gods 
are assigned, on this hypothesis, to an '' age " of magic. 

Dr. Marett, who is also well acquainted with the 
magico-religious practices of the Australians, has 
pointed out that magic and religion are two forms of a 
social phenomenon originally one and indivisible. 2 In 

1 " Early History of Kingship," p. 127. 

2 " Threshold of Religion," pp. 36 ff. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 155 

the primitive conception of the supernatural there were 
the germs of both magic and religion, which in course 
of time tended to become differentiated, religion always 
being the more respectable of the two institutions. It 
is therefore not remarkable that the two cults should 
often merge the one into the other, thus producing 
magico-religious phenomena. Under this term is in- 
cluded the indeterminate elements, such as " white 
magic," religion in embryo, etc. The Melanesian word 
Mana is the generic name adopted to designate the 
positive aspect of the supernatural or sacred, which 
gives rise to the magico-religious rites and beliefs. 
Mana is attributed not only to natural objects but also 
to men, hence came into existence the professional 
medicine man. On this hypothesis priest and magician 
were originally one, but the former discarded spell for 
prayer and prostrated himself before a higher power. 

The office of a medicine man in every primitive cult 
was once no doubt closely associated with that of a 
priest, since, in this connexion, magic and religion 
appear to be interfused. Thus, the medicine man in 
Australia is often initiated by the tribal god (e.g. Dara- 
mulun and Baiame) or by spirits, and therefore his 
mana is partly of a religious nature. Where he is con- 
sidered as the recipient of a new nature by the god or 
spirit — as, for example, where his internals are ex- 
changed for those of the god — at least in theory more 
than a mere worker of black magic, because he controls 
natural forces by supernatural means. By a process of 
evolution this class of medicine man doubtless develops 
into a person who performs certain ritual acts in the 
name of the community with the delegated authority 
of the gods, that is to say, he becomes a priest. On the 
other hand a magician pure and simple acts in his own 
name and on his own authority. 

A priesthood is only possible where a definite^relation- 



156 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

ship exists between the deity and the community, since 
the office of priest is to propitiate the gods or act as 
their mouthpiece. This latter function is probably 
responsible for the tendency sometimes found to invest 
the priest with the office of diviner. In primitive cults 
divination is usually associated with the magician. 
Thus in Greenland the Angekok, as the mouthpiece of 
the Supreme Being, foretells the weather and the pros- 
pects of fishing. 1 The Yorubans have a special god of 
divination whose priest is the soothsayer of the com- 
munity. 2 In Ashanteeland priests and priestesses owe 
their importance chiefly to their power to interpret 
omens, signs, etc. 3 It is not without significance that 
the Aramaic term kakin, used for " priest " in the in- 
scriptions of the ancient Arabs, is retained among the 
Sinai-Arabs in its original meaning, while it is used by 
the later Arabs in the sense of soothsayer. In early 
times the deity had been accustomed to reveal himself 
to his priests ; thus the divining arrows of Hubal and 
of other gods — things only used by priests — survived 
in later times as relics of a more primitive age. The 
Todas have an interesting deviation which is, neverthe- 
less closely allied to the function of priesthood. Among 
this primitive people the diviner claims for himself a 
separate office distinct from that of magician, the pro- 
phet and the dairyman. He is inspired by a god, 
speaks in an aesthetic state, but, for the most part, 
confines his prophetic utterances to the explanation 
of the origin of misfortunes. 4 

The heathen practices of divination are emphatically 
condemned by the " Later Prophets," often with little 
success, but in the historical books of the Old Testa- 

1 Cranz, " Greenland," I, pp. 192 ff. 

2 Ellis, " Yoruba," pp. 56 ff. 

3 " Tshi-speaking People," p. 124. 

4 Rivers, " Todas," pp. 249. £f. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 157 

ment, there are repeated references to the custom, ob- 
viously as survivals of a more primitive cult mingling 
with the worship of " Yahweh the God of the Hebrews." 1 
Moses forbad every species of divination because a 
prying into the future must lead to a superstitious 
following of the cults of the surrounding nations. Al- 
though, in the grosser forms, divination, together with 
other magical rites, was definitely forbidden in Israel, 
yet the seer and the prophet at first adopted the same 
methods employed by the heathen diviner and sooth- 
sayer — the former appealing to Yahweh, the latter to 
Baal and Dagon — both using almost identical ritual 
practices. Indeed, the frequent denunciation of the 
sin in the prophets tends to prove that the forbidden 
arts presented peculiar temptation to apostate pro- 
phets. The very nature of the office of a prophet made 
for divination in its grosser forms. Various other 
classes of diviners are mentioned as existing in Israel, 
but the distinctions between them are not given. 2 

It seems evident that the priests were the official 
diviners in early days, employing the Ephod and the 
Urim and Thummim for the purpose of divination 
(Exod. xxviii., 30). Exactly in what these objects con- 
sisted it is by no means easy to say. Apart from the 
Aaronic robe there is no clear evidence that the ephod 
was a garment. In fact in some cases it appears to 
have been an image of gold. Thus Gideon made a 
golden ephod and " all Israel went a whoring after it " 
(Judges viii. 26 f. ; cf. 1 Sam. xxi. 1). Sometimes the 
ephod was made of linen. Samuel ministered before 
Yahweh, " girded with a linen ephod" (1 Sam. ii. 18). 
The word " girded " here may be used as in the case of 
a sword and not as signifying a garment. This sacred 
object is found in close conjunction with teraphim, 

1 Gen. xliv. 5 ; Lev. xix. 3 ; Deut. xiii. 1-3. 

2 Deut. xiii. 1, 10 : xviii. 10. 



158 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

images used in divination (Ezek. xxi. 21 ; Zech. x. 2 ; 
Judges xvii. 4L) Deuteronomy xxxiii. 8 makes it 
clear that the use of the Urim and Thummim was con- 
fined to the priests. What these objects were can only 
be conjectured. That they were connected with some 
method of casting lots is evident from 1 Samuel xiv. 48 f . 
It is therefore usually supposed that they were stones, 
but no certain conclusion can be arrived at, since the 
priestly writer himself gives no account as to how they 
were made. They were retained in his narrative appar- 
ently because their use was invested with the mystery 
of a long vanished past. In fact they were looked upon 
as one of the most venerable adjuncts of the priesthood. 
It was known that they had been a means of ascertain- 
ing the Divine Will, but their nature and method of use 
were evidently little understood (Ezek. ii. 63 ; Neh. vii. 
65 ; cf. Ecclus. xlv. 10). 

Similar modes of divination were practised by the 
pre-Islamic Arabs. Two arrow-shafts, one on which 
was written " Command," on the other " Prohibition," 
were placed in a receptacle, and according as one or 
the other of them were drawn out it was known whether 
the proposed enterprise was in accordance with the 
will of the god and destined to succeed or not. 1 It may 
be said that, together with dreams and prophetic oracles, 
the Ephod, Urim and Thummim, formed the recognized 
medium by which the Divine communications were given 
to Israel (1 Sam. xxviii. 6), and in this way the priest 
may be regarded as the official diviner. 

The office of priest is doubtless a product of evolution 
in the sense that it arises with the more developed reli- 
gious conceptions, particularly those of sacrifice and 
propitiation. But just as sacrificial ideas are found in 
primitive cult, so the germ of the priesthood is present 
in the earliest magico-religious practices. Inasmuch as 
1 "Encyclop. Bib.," Art. " Urim," col. 5236. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 159 

the magician controls natural forces by supernatural 
agencies working in him, he is, on the religious side, 
exercising powers which in due course are destined to 
evolve into sacerdotal functions. The transition from 
the medicine man to the priest is not, as Frazer imagines, 
the result of the displacement of magic by religion, the 
magician renouncing the attempt to control directly 
the processes of naf ure, in favour of an appeal to the 
gods to do for him what he no longer fancies he can do 
for himself. It is rather a development on the lines 
laid down by Dr. Marett — the religious aspect of his 
office becoming more and more defined, with the result 
that the magic practices are of necessity abandoned. 
In the early stages of this process of evolution it is often 
difficult to distinguish between the magician and the 
priest, or between the priest and the diviner. This 
latter interfusion of office is seen even in the higher 
religions. It also happens that at certain times and 
under certain conditions the king or chief exercises 
priestly functions, or the priest assumes civil authority, 
but in these exceptional cases the specific character of 
the sacerdotal office remains unchanged. The com- 
bination of civil ruler and vicar of Christ on earth was 
in the middle ages exercised, to a considerable extent, 
by the Roman pontiffs, without in any way affecting 
their episcopal functions. 

The priest, by virtue of his initial ordination, becomes 
invested with Divine authority to act on behalf of the 
community in the name of the Deity. 1 He is therefore 
regarded as a sacred person. In primitive cult he has 
to be guarded against contamination by profane things, 
and care has to be taken that his sacredness be not in- 
juriously communicated to other persons or objects. 
He is often required to abstain from a flesh diet. The 

1 Lev. viii. ; i Tim. iv. 14 ; v. 22 ; 2 Tim. 1.6; cf. Ordering 
of Bishops, Priests and Deacons in P. B. 



160 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Gangas or fetish priests of the Loango Coast are for- 
bidden to eat, or even to see, a variety of animals and 
fish, although they may drink fresh blood. The hair 
and nail parings of such sacred persons must not be 
touched by common folk. Sacerdotal vestments (or 
their equivalent) must be changed immediately the 
priest mixes with the people. 1 

He is often forbidden to engage in warfare or to shed 
blood. The " holy men " of the North- American In- 
dians, like the Jewish priests, were by their function 
absolutely prohibited to shed blood. Herodotus says 
of the Persian Magi that they " kill animals of all kinds 
with their own hands, excepting dogs and men." 2 
The Druids of Gaul never went to war, probably in order 
to keep themselves free from blood pollutions. To the 
same class of facts belong those canons of the Christian 
Church which forbid priests to bear arms, serve on the 
jury, etc. (This latter prohibition is probably the result 
of the decree forbidding the clergy to have any part in 
bringing about a sentence of death on any one — Concil- 
ium Lateranense iv., a.d. 1215, Ch. 18). 

Christianity introduced into Europe a higher regard 
for human life than was felt anywhere in pagan society. 
The early Church looked upon war as unlawful and a 
thing to be avoided at all costs (St. Matt. v. 9, 39, 44 ; 
Rom. xii. 17 ; Ephes. vi. 12, Just. Martyr, "^Apologia," I, 
" Pro Christiano," 39 ; Tert. " De Corona," II ; " De 
Idolatria," 19; Origen, "Contra Celsum," v., 33 ; viii., 
73.) When Christianity became a State religion it was 
compelled to abandon its former attitude regarding the 
non-resistance of enemies. The later Fathers (SS. 
Chrysostom, Ambrose, etc.), though seeing the difficulty 
of reconciling it with the picture of the Christian life as 
portrayed in the New Testament, perceived that the use 

1 " Golden Bough," III, Index. 2 Herodotus, i. 40. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 161 

of the sword was necessary to preserve the State. St. 
Augustine even went so far as to try to prove that the 
practice of war was compatible with the teachings of 
Christ. 1 But, although the Church thus recognized 
that the profession of a soldier is not contrary to the 
precept of God, yet by the decrees of several Councils 
it forbids the clergy to engage in warfare, 2 an injunc- 
tion respected by the civil as well as by the ecclesiastical 
authorities in the present war. Our Lord seems to 
have had in mind the difficulties with which the Church 
would be confronted in later ages regarding blood-tabu 
when He told His disciples, as the representatives of 
the Apostolic Ministry, to " put up the sword into its 
place," while at the same time recognizing the profession 
of the soldier as honourable and apparently necessary. 
But, like the builder of the Temple in Jerusalem, those 
who minister in holy things He desires to be free from 
blood, since, like their Master, they are come to save 
men's lives rather than to destroy them. 

Besides blood tabu the priest, in primitive cult, must 
keep his body clean and free from sexual impurity. 
His relations with women are carefully defined. Some- 
times he is forbidden to marry or to approach a woman, 
sometimes the tabu only extends to a marriage with cer- 
tain people. The Thlinkets believe that if a shaman 
does not observe continuous chastity his guardian spirit 
will kill him. Celibacy was compulsor}^ on the priests of 
the Chibchas in Bogota, and the Tohil priests in Gua- 
temala were vowed to perpetual continence. In Ich- 
catlan the high-priest was obliged to live constantly with- 
in the temple, and to abstain from commerce with any 
woman whatsoever ; if he failed in this duty he was cut 
in pieces, and his limbs were given as a warning to his 

1 " Epist," cxxxviii. ; " Ad Marcellinum," 15. 

2 " Canones ecclesiastici qui dicuntur Apost." '83. "Councils 
of Toulouse," 633, etc. 

II 



162 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

successor. The chastity of priestesses is equally zeal- 
ously guarded. The vestal virgins in Yucatan were 
shot to death with arrows if they broke their vow to 
keep strictly chaste. Likewise the virgins dedicated to 
the sun in Peru, and the priestesses of the Tshi and Ewe- 
speaking peoples of the west coast of Africa, are for- 
bidden to marry. Westermarck quotes similar exam- 
ples showing the world-wide distribution of the doctrine 
of celibacy amongst priests and priestesses. He con- 
cludes by saying, " For a nation like the Jews, whose 
ambition was to live and to multiply, celibacy could 
never become an ideal : whereas the Christians, who 
professed the most perfect indifference to all earthly 
matters, found no difficulty in glorifying a state which, 
however opposed it was to the interests of the race and 
the nation, made men pre-eminently fit to approach 
their God . . . Among early Christians young women 
who took a vow of chastity did not look upon virginity 
as anything if it were not attended with great mortifica- 
tion, with silence, retirement, poverty, labour, fastings, 
watchings, and continual praying. They were not es- 
teemed as virgins who would not deny themselves the 
common diversions of the world, even the most inno- 
cent." x Thus, the " consecrated life " reaches its 
highest point in the Religious Life — the corporate life 
lived under Rule within the Christian Church. 

Our Lord set before His followers a two-fold ideal. 
For thirty years He lived at home, thus showing to the 
world the ideal of the Christian home, with its halo of 
purity, obedience, unselfishness and consecration of the 
natural life. At the end of this time He abandoned 
His home to set forth on His mission, proclaiming the 
love of God and the salvation of all mankind. In this 
way He put before the world the two-fold ideals of 
Christianity. Some are to remain in the world, leaven- 

1 " Origin and Development of Moral Ideas," II, pp. 405-421. 



RITES AND CONSECRATED LIFE 163 

ing society by consecrating every detail of family, 
social, and national life. Others are to seek freedom 
from worldly hindrances in order that they may " wait 
without distraction upon the Lord." 

Beginning with professional magicians and priests the 
sacerdotal office in due course is freed from the trammels 
of magic. The medicine man becomes but the represen- 
tative of the deity, acting in his name and by his author- 
ity, not in the manner set forth by Dr. Frazer, but by 
throwing off the magical element of his office. Thus 
the way was prepared for the loftiest conception of 
priesthood as described by the author of the Epistle to 
the Hebrews. Here the sacerdotal office is represented 
as summed up and perfected in Christ — the High- 
Priest " for ever after the order of Melchizedek " — 
and continued in the Christian Church. 

In all stages of culture there is a clear distinction 
between the official priest or medicine man and the rest 
of the community. So in the Church the clergy " are 
taken from among men and ordained for men in things 
pertaining to God." The Christian priesthood differs 
from earlier conceptions in that it is religious rather 
than magical, representative rather than vicarious. It 
exercises its functions only in the name and by the 
authority of the Head of the Body. It is wholly depend- 
ent on the ministry of Christ, and is thus merely the 
organ of His Mystical Body. Since it is His power 
rather than its own that the Apostolic Ministry exer- 
cises in the performance of its functions it can hardly 
be interpreted in terms of " mana." Dr. Gore admir- 
ably sums up the situation by saying : " It is an abuse 
of the sacerdotal conception, if it be supposed that 
the priesthood exists to celebrate sacrifices and acts 
of worship in the place of the body of the people or as 
their substitute. . . . The Church is one body : the 
free approach to God in the Sonship and Priesthood of 



164 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Christ belongs to men as members of " one body," 
and this one body has different organs through which 
the functions of its life find expression. . . . The re- 
ception, for instance, of Eucharistic grace, the approach 
to God in Eucharistic sacrifice, are functions of the 
whole body. ' We bless the cup of blessing,' ' we 
break the bread,' says St. Paul, speaking for the com- 
munity : 'we offer, we present," is the language of 
the liturgies. But the ministry is the organ — the neces- 
sary organ — of these functions. It is the hand which 
offers and distributes ; it is the voice which consecrates 
and pleads. And the whole body can no more dispense 
with its services than the natural body can grasp or 
speak without the instrumentality of hand and tongue." 1 
1 " Ministry of the Christian Church," 2nd Ed., pp. 25, 86. 



CHAPTER XI 
SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 

The myth in primitive cult — The Alcheringa myths of the 
Australians — The Inapertwa — The making of human beings — 
The origin of the Lartna operation — The Unthippa women — 
The origin of the totemic groups — The wanderings of ancestors 
— Corrobborees — The inspired song — Myths relating to the 
deluge, and the origin of death, fire and the sun — The distribu- 
tion of myths and the theory of race-contact — The " Migrations 
of Early Culture " — The origin of the deluge myth — The rela- 
tion of mythology to ritual — The origin of myths. 

MYTHOLOGY is most abundant in those com- 
munities in which the deity is conceived of 
as a humanized anthropomorphic being, 
and therefore it is in the higher religions that mytho- 
logical lore reaches its zenith. Thus the Indo-European 
myths show an advance over the Egyptian and Semitic 
in distinctness and fulness corresponding to the dis- 
tincter individuality of the Indo-European deities. 
These are not powers identified with natural forces and 
phenomena, but persons with pronounced personalities. 
Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athene and other figures in 
Greek mythology are well defined persons with in- 
telligence and moral characteristics of their own, and 
compare favourably with the Roman gods, occupied 
with agriculture and civil affairs. Teutonic mythology 
is chiefly cosmogonic and eschatological, in which gods 
are represented as struggling with giants, etc. This 
class of myth is never found in primitive cult. Never- 

165 



166 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

theless it is apparently true that from the earliest times 
man has shown some interest and curiosity in the origin 
of the things he sees about him. Tylor maintains 
that man's craving to know " the reason why " is 
" among rude savages an intellectual appetite," and 
" even to the Australian scientific speculation has its 
germ in actual experience." 1 He goes on to show 
how primitive man satisfies this craving. " When the 
attention of a man in the myth-making stage of intellect 
is drawn to any phenomenon or custom which has to 
him no obvious reason, he invents and tells a story to 
account for it." However, the notion of the primitive 
philosopher, communing alone with nature, evolving 
cosmological ideas out of his inner consciousness, has 
to be seriously modified when savage mythology is con- 
sidered in relation to ritual acts. 

Professor Robertson Smith has shown that the myth 
was originally derived from the ritual and not the 
ritual from the myth 2 — a conclusion in most respects 
supported by the sacred lore and rites of the Australians, 
and other primitive people. 

The Australian mythology is chiefly concerned with 
the Alcheringa. The earliest traditions with which 
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen are acquainted among the 
Arunta are as follows. 3 In the early Alcheringa the 
country was covered with salt water. This was 
gradually withdrawn towards the north by the people 
of that country. (It is perhaps worthy of note that 
this tradition anticipates geological evidence, so far as 
the existence of a great inland sea is concerned.) At 
last they succeeded in accomplishing their task, and 
the salt has remained with them ever since. Two beings 
— Ungambikula (" out of nothing " or " self-existing ") 

1 " Primitive Culture," i., p. 369. 

2 " Religion of the Semites," p. 18. 

3 " Native Tribes," pp. 387-449. 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 167 

— dwelt in the western sky at this time, whence they 
saw, far away to the east, a number of Inapertwa 
creatures, that is rudimentary men, whom it was their 
mission to make into complete men and women. The 
Inapertwa had no distinct limbs or sense organs, and 
did not eat food. Coming down from their elevated 
dwelling-place, armed with their " Laliva," or great stone 
knives, the Ungambikula took hold of the Inapertwa, 
put the limbs into position, added the nose, and bored 
the nostrils with their fingers. The mouth and eyelids 
were cut out with the knife. Thus, from Inapertwa, 
men and women were formed. In most cases the Un- 
gambikula then performed the rite of circumcision by 
means of a fire-stick. The Inapertwa were in course of 
transformation out of lizards, rats, parakeets, hakea 
trees, and so on. Thus out of animals and plants arose 
the original groups of men and women, who naturally, 
when they were formed, were intimately associated 
with the same animals and plants. The object from 
which an individual evolved would of necessity become 
his totem. 

This tradition of the Ungambikula only refers to a 
certain number of local groups belonging to particular 
totems. The Witchetty grub totem, for instance, has 
no tradition relating to the Inapertwa stage. Neverthe- 
less some such tradition is widely spread over a very 
large area in Central Australia. 

When once they had come into existence, these ances- 
tral people started to wander over the country, each 
totemic group going along different tracks, the kangaroo 
people along one track, the wild cat along another, the 
lizard along another, and so on through the various 
totems. Each of the Ungambikula carried with him or 
her a Churinga, with which the spirit part of the owner 
was intimately associated. As t 1 ey wandered over 
the Arunta country the line of hills arose to mark their 



168 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

routes, and by them the rivers and creeks, the clay-pans 
and waterholes and other physical features were made. 
At certain spots (oknanikilla) they halted to perform 
ceremonies. These became local totem centres. The 
operation of Lartna or circumcision was performed by 
them by means of a fire-stick, in the case of the large 
lizard, small lizard, and small rat totems. During the 
wanderings of a bandicoot woman an Unjiamba woman, 
carrying with her a Nurlunja, was encountered, upon 
whom the former performed the operation of Atna- 
ariltha-kuma. 

The mythological traditions concerning some danc- 
ing women called Unthippa serve to explain some of the 
ceremonies connected with initiation rites. These 
women were Orimcha, that is to say, " devil " women, 
possessed with superhuman powers of a mischievous 
kind. They danced their way through the Arunta coun- 
try, beginning their journey as half men and half women, 
and ending it as women proper. When they arrived at 
a place in the vicinity of Glen Helen they found a number 
of Okramina or carpet snake people, who were about to 
perform the rite of circumcision on some Wurtja (youths 
who had undergone the preliminary initiation rites). 
The women who were Unawa to the boys took the latter 
on their shoulders and carried them along with them, 
leaving them at various spots on the way, after perform- 
ing Lartna on them. The Unthippa dance, which is 
performed during the initiation ceremonies at the present 
day, refers to these women. On the night when the 
boy is taken to the ceremonial ground the women ap- 
proach, carrying shields and spear-throwers, and dance 
as the Unthippa women danced in the Alcheringa, while 
men sing time after time, the refrain, " the range all 
along," referring to the march of the Unthippa of which 
the women are dancing in imitation. After the boy 
has become Wurtja, and just before the "actual ceremony, 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 169 

one of the women, who is Mura, and not as the myth 
says, Unawa to the boy, lifts him on her shoulders and 
runs off with him, in imitation of the Unthippa women 
in the Alcheringa, but, unlike what happened in the 
past, the boy is again seized by the men and brought 
back. The myth, which probably has arisen from the 
rite, rather than the rite from the myth, shows that at 
one time women played a more important part in such 
ceremonies than they play at the present time. 

In the next two stages of the Alcheringa an oknirabata 
(sage) introduced the rite of circumcision with a flint 
knife and taught the little hawk totem group to perform 
the operation. They also formed the four inter-marry- 
ing classes, but without associating them with mar- 
riage regulations. More Inapertwa were transformed ; 
men of the wild cat totem instituted the Ariltha 
operation, and the order of the initiation ceremonies 
was arranged. 

Finally, the emu people introduced the present mar- 
riage system. 

The whole country of the Arunta is dotted over with 
sacred spots, at which, it is supposed, the ancestors in 
the Alcheringa " went down into the ground " (died), 
their spirits remaining with the Churinga. The old 
men know exactly the whole history of each spot, the 
routes taken by their ancestors in the Alcheringa, and 
what spirits inhabit different spots — wild cat in one, 
kangaroos in another, lizards, emu, snakes, fishes in 
others, and so on. It therefore follows that the birth of 
a child in any particular place, must, according to their 
theory, be the reincarnation of the ancestor who in- 
habited the spot in the Alcheringa, and thus every 
individual in the tribe gets his or her totem name, and 
belongs to the same totemic group as did its ancestor. 
Consequently in the Arunta it follows that in one family 
the children may belong to various totem groups, and 



170 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

not, as in the Urabunna, where all the children take the 
name of their mother. 

Briefly stated, the Urabunna myth is as follows : — 
In the Alcheringa, or, as the Urabunna say, the Ularaka, 
there existed at first a small number of half-human, half- 
animal or plant individuals, equivalent to the Alcher- 
inga ancestors of the Arunta. These semi-human 
creatures were endowed with supernatural power. 
They could walk either on the earth or beneath it, or 
could fly through the air. They were the ancestors of 
the different totemic groups. A great carpet snake 
individual gave rise to the carpet snake group, two jew 
lizards gave rise to the jew lizard group, rain creatures 
to the rain group and so on. The belief is closely related 
to that of the Warramunga tribe in the far north. These 
semi-human creatures wandered all over the country 
now occupied by the Urabunna, performing sacred 
ceremonies, and depositing in the ground or in the water- 
holes or rocks (which arose to mark the spot), a number 
of spirit individuals called Mai-aurli. These in due 
course became changed into men and women, who 
formed the first series of totem groups. Since that 
time the Mai-aurli have been continually undergoing 
reincarnation. 1 

The Unmatjeri and Kaitish tribes have traditions 
dealing with incomplete human beings whom the former 
call Inmintera, and who are similar to the Inapertwa of 
the Arunta. They say that in the Alcheringa an old 
crow lived at Ungurla on the Woodford River, and seeing 
afar off a number of Inmintera, he decided to make them 
into men and women. Accordingly he did so, separating 
their limbs, etc., with his bill. While he was away get- 
ting his flint with which he purposed to circumcise 
them, two large lizard men appeared on the scene and 
performed the operation, together with that of subin- 
1 " Northern Tribes, Central Australia," pp. 145-147. 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 171 

cision and Atna-ariltha-kuma. When the old crow saw 
that he had been superseded by the lizard men, he re- 
mained at Ungarla, and a big black stone arose to mark 
the spot at which he died. There are also other tradi- 
tions among the Kaitish people relating to the origin of 
human beings, etc., but none of them lay stress, as in 
the Arunta myths, on the walking across the country 
of individuals of the same totem. The old tradition 
about the transformation of incomplete human beings 
into men and women remains, but the peopling of various 
spots is explained as due to one or two old totemic an- 
cestors, who in some cases carried Churinga with them, 
as did the Arunta ancestors, though in other cases the 
spirits are reported to have emanated from their bodies. 1 

The Warramunga, Walpari, Tjingilli, and other tribes 
hold that every one is the incarnation of a Wingara 
ancestor ; these latter are regarded as having been 
fully formed men, and all the members of a totem at 
the present day are looked upon as the descendants of 
one ancestor, who in the Wingara (i.e. Alcheringa) wan- 
dered over the country leaving spirit children in trees 
and rocks. If a woman strikes one of these trees with 
an axe, the spirit child will enter her body. The an- 
cestor began his travels^under ground, and then came 
up to the surface. Churinga are not among these tribes 
associated with individuals. These beliefs are also 
held by the Umbaia and Gnanji, but the latter do not 
assign a moidna or spirit part to women. The Binbinga 
tradition says that one totemic ancestor formed mem- 
bers of a group and left Ulanji spirits which emanated 
from his own body. 

Similar myths have been found by Dr. Howitt to 
exist in the tribes of the south-east, and about Lake 
Eyre. These legends relate to the Mura-mura, who 

1 Op. cit., pp. 152-154. 



172 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

were the predecessors and prototypes of the blacks. 
Like the Ungambikula, they are supposed to have formed 
men out of semi-human creatures, and later to have 
instituted the rite of circumcision in various ways. In 
one case two Mura-mura youths were hunting for game 
at Perigundi, when one of them became accidentally 
circumcised, and saw that he had become a " perfected 
man." After the other was circumcised they performed 
the rite on their father with a stone knife, and set out 
on their wanderings, carrying the knife with them, and 
teaching people to use it instead of the fire-stick, which 
had caused the death of many youths. 

Other legends relate to the wanderings of the Mura- 
mura, either in connexion with certain food ceremonies, 
or to explain the origin of natural features. A Wonkan- 
guru tells of an ancestral being who, having recovered 
his sight after being nearly blind, went forth on 
his wanderings singing a song into which he wove all 
that he saw. At length he reached a great water (pre- 
sumably the Gulf of Carpentaria), on the shores of which 
he gathered glowing coal from a fire which had grown 
up of its own accord. He carried some of the glowing 
embers in his bag, with which, on his return journey, 
he destroyed the people of a certain village, who ridi- 
culed him. 

Another myth says that in the beginning the earth 
opened in the middle of Lake Perigundi (in the Dieri 
country), and then the totem animals came forth, one 
after another. They were quite unformed, without 
sense organs, and they lay on the sandhills, which then 
as now surrounded the lake, until, revived and strength- 
ened by the warmth of the sun, they stood up as human 
beings, and separated, some going to the north-east, 
some to the east, and others to the south and south- 
west. 1 

1 " South-eastern Tribes," pp. 475-488. 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 173 

Professor Sir Baldwin Spencer thinks that the Mum- 
mum are the equivalents of the Mai-aurli of the Ura- 
bunna. This connects the Mura-mura beliefs with the 
Alcheringa of the Arunta, although Dr. Howitt is un- 
able to find any trace of a belief in the reincarnation 
of the ancestor among the Dieri, or in the tribes of the 
south-east. 

The Wotjobaluk account of creation may be taken 
as an example of the cosmical myths of the south- 
eastern tribes. Long ago Ngunung-ngunnut, the bat, 
who was a man, lived on the earth, and there were others 
like him. At that time there was no difference between 
the sexes. Feeling lonely, he wished for a wife ; he 
therefore made one of his companions into a woman. 
Then he made fire by rubbing a stick on a log of wood. 
Another legend of these people tells of the wanderings 
of the two Bram-bram-gal in search of Doan, the flying- 
squirrel, who had been killed and eaten by Wembulin. 
The younger died in due course and the elder shaped 
part of a tree in the form of a man, and by magical 
means caused it to become alive and to call him elder 
brother. Thus the two Bram-bram-gal were again 
united, and travelled far to the west. 

The Kurnai, Wurunjeru, etc., unlike the tribes of 
Central Australia, attribute their origin to the All- 
Father connected with the initiation ceremonies. Ac- 
cording to the latter tribe, it was Bunjil who made 
men of clay and imparted life to them, while his brother, 
Pallina, the bat, brought women out of the water to 
be their wives. In the Kurnai legends a bird-man, or 
reptile-man, or animal-man (known as a Muk-Kurnai : 
an " eminent man ") often plays an important part. 
Probably these " Muk-Kurnai " are the same as ances- 
tors ; and animals, in association with these mythical 
people, are the original totems. The Mura-mura, 
Alcheringa ancestors, and Muk-Kurnai are all on some- 



174 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

what the same level, while the tribal All-Father belongs 
to a distinctly higher order. 

The three types of belief represented by these mythical 
beings have certain features in common. They recognize 
a primitive time before man existed, and when the earth 
was inhabited by beings, the prototype of, but more 
powerful than, the native tribes. Those beings at least 
perfected, if they did not actually create man. Whether 
or no the traditions connected with the " Dream Times " 
— the interpretation of the word Alcheringa according 
to Spencer and Gillen — have a historical basis it is 
difficult to say. It may be that the myths have arisen 
to explain the tribal rites and social organization, or 
it may be that they represent genuine historical tradi- 
tion. Expert opinion is divided. Lang treats them 
as mere aetiological myths, while Spencer and Howitt 
are of the opinion that they may be dim records of 
former events handed down in the sacred ceremonies. Be 
this as it may the main facts of the Alcheringa stories 
are now dramatized and portrayed by ritual acts, and 
thus they may almost be described as the oral aspect 
of certain rites. At first sight myths often appear to 
be merely the products of a mythopceic tendency, and 
to have nothing to do with ritual, whereas on further 
examination they are found to be intimately associated 
with certain ceremonies and rites. The instances 
quoted of the relation of the traditions concerning the 
Unthippa women and initiation ceremonies, is a case 
in point. 

It sometimes happens that an individual is vouch- 
safed a glimpse of what in primitive society corre- 
sponds to a " beatific vision." He becomes duly ele- 
vated and dances a new dance or performs a new cere- 
mony. The person who is the author in this way of a 
particular drama is allowed to exercise the copyright 
over his own inventions. Productions of this kind are 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 175 

immediately submitted to the tribe in the form of a 
dramatic ceremony or corrobboree, and thereby they 
become socialized. The songs that form a large part 
of the corrobboree are believed to be obtained by the 
barbs from the spirits of the dead, during sleep and 
dreams or on waking. The medicine men are thought 
to have obtained their songs when they were in the 
cave with the spirits, or up in the air. The man who 
makes songs under ordinary circumstances in the camp 
is thought to be endowed with the attributes of the 
medicine men. Dr. Howitt found an interesting ex- 
ample of an inspired song in the Wurunjeri tribe. It 
was composed by a man to lament the death of his 
brother by evil magic. His belief was, however, that 
Bunjil himself " rushed down " into his breast and thus 
he was inspired by something more than mortal power 
when he composed the lay. On another occasion, the 
same observer was told when he asked the origin of a 
song, that the person who sang it " got it from his grand- 
father, who got it from his parents, who got it from the 
old people, who got it from Bunjil." 1 

The dances, pantomimic gestures or rhythmical move- 
ments that accompany such songs, are supposed to have 
been actually seen by the author during translation to 
the spirit world, and thus they naturally assume a sacred 
and permanent character, being passed on from per- 
former to performer, as the song and ceremony is carried 
from tribe to tribe. It, of course, follows from this 
circulation of corrobborees that the original meaning 
of the words chanted, the decorations worn, and the 
pantomimic gestures performed is quite unknown to 
the performers, at any given time. For instance, all 
the corrobborees held at Alice Springs are derived from 
the north, and gradually filter through to the south. 

1 " Native Tribes, South-eastern Australia," p. 418. 



176 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Thus they soon become mere rites devoid of mytho- 
logical interpretation. The only value such meaningless 
ritual acts possess is that, according to primitive philo- 
sophy, by identifying oneself with sacred things one 
gets sacredness. No doubt the object of all mytho- 
logical stories and the accompanying rites is to bring 
man into contact with sacred persons, that they may 
thereby become full of sacredness. 

In addition to the cosmological myths — a world-wide 
phenomenon — legends of a deluge are as common in 
Australia as they are in many other parts of the world. 
The natives of Lake Tyers tell of a time when there was 
no water on the earth, and all the animals met together 
to discover the cause of the drought. They found that 
a gigantic frog had swallowed up all the water, and 
would only disgorge it if he were made to laugh. It was 
not until the eel began to wriggle that he could be per- 
suaded to open his jaws and allow the water to rush out. 
The result of the eel's distortions was that a great flood 
overspread the land, causing man to perish in the 
waters. Thereupon the pelican, who was a black before 
the flood, made a great canoe and sailed on the waters, 
picking up any natives he saw. Unfortunately he quar- 
relled about a woman with those whom he rescued, and 
his philanthropic efforts were only rewarded by his 
being turned into stone. 

The origin of death has, in all ages of culture, been a 
fruitful occasion for the exercise of the mythological 
imagination. Among various tribes in New South 
Wales it is said that the people were meant to live for 
ever. But they were forbidden to approach a certain 
hollow tree. The wild bees made a nest in the tree, 
and the women coveted the honey. In spite of warn- 
ings by the men, a woman attacked the tree with her 
tomahawk, and out flew a huge bat. The bat was 
Death, which was henceforth free to wander over the 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 177 

earth, and claim all that it could touch with its wings. 1 
Another myth — this time from West Australia — says 
that when man first began to exist there were two beings, 
male and female, named Walleyneup and Doronop. 
They had a son named Bindirwoor, who received a 
deadly wound, which they failed to heal, whereupon it 
was declared by Walleyneup that all who came after 
should die in like manner. The son went to the spirit 
country in the west, whence his parents followed him. 
They could not persuade him to return, so they have 
remained with him ever since. 2 

Similar myths are found in Africa, America, and, in 
fact, in all parts of the world. The Baganda, for in- 
stance, think that death originated through Kintu, 
the first man, and Nambi — a daughter of Mugulu 
(Heaven) — going on a journey to earth at the request 
of Mugulu. Kintu returned to get some millet to feed 
a hen that they were carrying with them. Mugulu 
was angry at his disobedience, he having previously 
forbidden them to return on any account till their 
mission was fulfilled. Nambi 's brother, Warumbe 
(Death), insisted on going with Kintu on his journey 
to earth, and lived with him and Nambi. The latter 
gave birth to three children, of whom Warumbe claimed 
one. He was refused. Thereupon he put a curse on 
the children so that they died. He then sank into the 
earth, and it was not until Kaikuzi (the Digger) came 
on the scene that he was forced out. Unfortunately, 
some children feeding goats at the place saw him and 
cried out. Their cries broke the spell, and Warumbe 
returned to the ground, where he was allowed to stay 
by command of Mugulu. 3 In these legends, as in the 



1 K. Langloh Parker," The Euahlayi Tribe," p. 98. 

2 N. W. Thomas, " Natives of Australia," p. 245. 

3 Johnston, " Uganda Protectorate," ii., p. 700, 

12 



178 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Hebrew account (Gen. ii. 16, 17), death is represented 
as the result of disobedience. 

Among the Arunta, Hottentots, and other primitive 
people, the moon plays a large part in the myths con- 
nected with the origin of death. The former believe 
that before there was any moon in the heavens, a man 
of the opossum totem died and was buried. Shortly 
afterwards he arose from the grave in the form of a boy. 
When the people ran away for fear, he followed them 
shouting, " Do not be frightened, do not run away, or 
you will die altogether ; I shall die but I shall rise again 
in the sky." He subsequently grew into a man and 
died, reappearing as the moon, and since then he has 
continued periodically to die and come to life again, 
but the people who ran away died altogether. When 
no longer visible it is supposed that the moon man is 
living with his two wives who dwell far away in the 
west. 1 

The Australians have many legends as to the origin 
of fire. The Central tribes think that in the Alcher- 
inga a man of the Arunga or euro totem, named Algura- 
wartna, started from Ililkinja in the East in pursuit 
of a gigantic euro which carried fire in its body. The 
man carried with him two big Churingas with which 
he tried to make fire, but failed. One night during his 
chase of the euro, Algurawartna awoke and saw a fire 
burning by the animal. He at once went up to it and 
took some, and with it cooked some of the euro flesh 
he was carrying with him. The euro ran away, going 
along its old tracks to the east. The man followed, 
still trying to make fire. At Alilkinja Algurawartna 
succeeded in killing the euro with his Churinga. He 
examined the body carefully and extracted the fire. 
For a long time he lived on the body of the animal, and 

1 " Native Tribes," p. 564. 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 179 

when the fire went out he tried fire-making again. This 
time he was successful. 1 

The Booandik tribe account for the beginning of fire 
in a rather different manner. Mar (cockatoo), who 
lived in the east, hid fire, they think, under the crest 
of feathers on his head. In order that they might 
take it from him, they arranged a corrobboree. A kan- 
garoo was killed and a choice piece of it offered to Mar, 
who, however, refused it, but accepted the skin. This 
he took away to his camp. An active little fellow named 
Prite followed him, concealing himself in the grass. 
He watched patiently, and at last Mar put his hand to 
his head and took the fire out. Then he went back and 
told the others. Tatkanna (robin) set out to discover 
more about the matter, but went too near and got his 
breast scorched by the fire — hence the reason why his 
breast is red ! However, he managed to get hold of a 
fire-stick as Mar was singeing the hair off the skin. This 
he carried away, setting fire to the long grass. Mar 
tried in vain to beat it out, and rushed off to the camp. 
There he challenged Tatkanna to fight, but Quartang 
(laughing jackass) took up his quarrel, but he soon had 
enough and flew up into the trees, where he remains. 2 

Other legends deal with the origin of the sun. In 
the olden days an emu lived in the clouds and was 
possessed of very long wings. Being interested in the 
native dances, one day she came down and explained 
that she wished to learn dancing. An old courtenie 
(native companion) replied that she would never dance 
while she had such long wings. She consequently 
allowed her wings to be cut, but, alas, only to see the 
courtenies spread their wings, which they had carefully 
folded so as to conceal them from view, and imme- 
diately fly off. Later on the emu had a big brood. The 

1 " Native Tribes, Central Australia," pp. 446, 447. 

2 N. W. Thomas, " Natives of Australia," p. 247. 



180 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

courtenie saw her coming and at once hid her own chicks 
with the exception of one. She then commiserated 
her on having so large a family, and advised her to 
kill them before she died of over-work. So the emu 
destroyed her brood. Then the courtenie called 
" Geralka beralka," and out came all her chicks. This 
time she suffered for her misdeeds, by getting her neck 
twisted so that she could only utter two discordant notes. 

Next season, when the emu was sitting on a fresh 
clutch, the courtenie came up, pretending to be very 
friendly. The tormented emu made a wild rush at 
her, but the courtenie hopped over her back and broke 
all her eggs except one. Making a second rush the 
courtenie seized the remaining egg and hurled it up into 
the sky. There it hit a great pile of wood, which a sky- 
being, Ngoudenout, had been collecting for some time. 
The wood at once burst into flames, flooding the earth 
with light. This so alarmed the two birds that they 
composed their quarrel. The courtenie, however, has 
never lost her twisted neck or regained her beautiful 
voice, and the emu has ever since had very short 
wings and only one egg. 

Ngoudenout saw what an advantage it would be to 
the world to have the sun ; so ever since he has lit the 
fire again every day. When it is first lighted in the 
morning it does not give out very much light or heat ; 
and in the evening, when the wood pile is burnt out, 
it gets cold again. The period of darkness is employed 
by Ngoudenout in collecting wood for the next day's 
fire. 1 

This story in various forms is found in many parts 
of Victoria and New South Wales. There are, needless 
to say, numerous other sun myths current among the 
Australian tribes. In these women figure largely. 
Since it is a woman's province to carry fire-sticks and 
1 Op. cit., pp. 247-249. 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 181 

make the camp fire, most of the legends regard the sun 
as a woman. During the day her fire-stick blazes up. 
At night the woman disappears under the arm of another 
woman, and it consequently becomes dark. 

Some of the North-West natives show the actual 
hole into which the sun falls at night. It goes right 
under the earth and comes up again out of another 
hole in the morning. The aborigines in the Kimberley 
district account for the setting sun by saying that he 
goes into a big forest under the earth at night in order 
to secure a fresh supply of fuel. Having obtained it, 
he comes up again and re-kindles his fire. 

Before concluding primitive mythological lore, a 
question that is occupying the minds of anthropolo- 
gists in a supreme degree at the moment and 
calling forth an animated controversy, demands atten- 
tion. How comes it about that the same myths with 
practically the same symbolism exist all over the world ? 
Identical stories are to be found in races as far removed 
from one another as the Bushmen and the Australians, 
the Eskimos and the Polynesians. Two explanations 
are possible to account for this uniformity of belief. 
(i) A unity of mental process throughout the race called 
into play by similar conditions, finds expression in simi- 
lar cult-practices and mythological-lore, (ii) Professor 
Elliot Smith, Dr. Rivers, Mr. Perry and others, how- 
ever, practically altogether deny the doctrine of the 
independent origin of customs and beliefs. Elliot 
Smith thinks that inventiveness and originality are 
qualities so exceptional that whenever similar cult- 
practices or myths are found in different parts of the 
earth the only possible explanation is to regard them 
as evidence of race-contact. Thus, he denies alto- 
gether the possibility that cultural or mythological 
resemblances may be due to the common tendencies of 
the human mind, called into play by similar conditions. 



182 



PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 



Accordingly, in his " Migrations of Early Culture," he 
is content to plot out on rough maps the distribution 
of ten associated customs and beliefs to mark the path 
of the dolmen-builders, after their migration from 
Egypt, the hypothetical original centre of the culture- 
complex. As far as the erection of megalithic monu- 
ments is concerned, it is by no means unreasonable to 
suppose that they are the work of one race. Their 
uniformity of structure and distribution along the coast- 
lands of Asia, etc., at a given time (the end of the neolithic 
and the beginning of the bronze age) suggest that they 
are due to the migration of a single " People of the 
Dolmens." That they are not the result of culture 
contact is evident from the fact that primeval man was 
not given to traffic in sacred rites and religious customs. 
But granting that these stone monuments, and perhaps 
the practice of mummification, are due to the distribu- 
tion of a particular race from a single centre, it by no 
means follows that there is no such thing as the inde- 
pendent origin of customs and beliefs. Professor Elliot 
Smith includes the deluge myth in his " heliolithic " 
culture-complex. Now is there sufficient evidence to 
prove that the distribution of this story is entirely due 
to racial contact ? True, legends relating to a flood 
are common in many parts of the world, and, perhaps, 
especially in the regions in which the " heliolithic " 
culture is found. It should, however, be remembered 
in this connexion that in Egypt, and in Africa generally, 
deluge myths are rare, and that they have not been 
discovered in Japan. 

Now how did these stories arise ? In many cases 
they are undoubtedly the traditions of local inunda- 
tions, frequent in some districts owing to seismic 
action, violent storms, or even perhaps to the final 
disappearance of the glacial period. Legends would 
speedily arise to explain the phenomena, and a local 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 183 

flood would soon become a universal deluge clothed in 
appropriate mythological garb. The discovery of 
shells and fossil fish on the tops of hills and other spots 
far from the sea would also suggest that once these 
places were the beds of a mighty ocean. 1 The Poly- 
nesians and Melanesians have regarded the waters 
with which they are surrounded as the remains of a 
primeval deluge. The well-known story in Genesis 
has been explained by Huxley and Jastrow as originat- 
ing in a local inundation of the Lower Euphrates — an 
event that not infrequently takes place when the snow 
in the upper basin melts in spring, and after an earth- 
quake or heavy rains. This view seems to be far more 
reasonable than that put forth by the late Professor 
Prestwich that a land submergence in Western Europe 
and North- West Africa caused a great inundation of 
the sea at the end of the palaeolithic age, destroying 
numbers of men, and all but the light-footed animals. 
The absence of geological evidence, or of any mention 
of such an event in African folk-lore, makes the theory 
highly improbable. 

Another origin of deluge myths may be due to the 
mind of primitive man seeking an explanation of the 
beginning of such natural phenomena as lakes and 
inland seas, the distribution of races and the diversity 
of language. Thus, the iVmerican Indians account for 
the origin of land by an animal, in some former time, 
having dived down into the primeval flood and brought 
it up with his feet. Likewise some of the natives of 
Western Australia explain the origin of " black " and 
" white " races in terms of a deluge myth. 2 

No doubt myths are often distributed by racial con- 
tact, as, for example, that particular form of the deluge 

1 Tylor, " Early History of Mankind," pp. 325 ft. ; cf. Hall, 
" Life with the Eskimos," ii., p. 318. 

2 Smyth, " Aborigines of Victoria," i, p. 430. 



184 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

myth that was indigenous in Babylon and transplanted, 
in later times, to Palestine. But it does not follow that 
all stories relating to a flood — or any other myths — 
can be traced to a common origin. Enough has been 
said to show that the deluge myth is rather the result 
of a unity of mental process called into play by similar 
conditions (inundations, hypothetical explanations of 
natural phenomena and racial conditions, etc.). It 
would therefore appear that at least one of the elements 
in the " heliolithic culture-complex " does not support 
the view advocated by Professor Elliot Smith, though, 
of course, it does not necessarily follow that the same 
is true of the allied practices and beliefs. 

It seems more in accordance with anthropological 
evidence to regard mythology largely as the outcome 
of certain ritual acts. The savage is a man of action 
rather than of words and theories, and therefore he 
usually acts before he thinks. It is only in process of 
time, when his actions require justification and explana- 
tion, that a myth is invented to meet the needs of the 
case. Thus, a golden age or Alcheringa gradually came 
into being to explain the time-honoured conventions 
and rigidly-observed rituals. In this " Dream-time " 
the supernormal race of Alcheringa folk that inhabited 
the earth, taught men the arts of life, framed the laws, 
originated the tribal rites, modified the face of the earth, 
went on long journeys over the country, and were 
possessed with powers superior to those of the medicine- 
men of to-day. They were, in one way or another, con- 
nected with or developed from, the totem animals, vege- 
tables and other objects, and finally, when they " went 
down into the earth," rocks and trees arose to mark 
the spot. Thus myths came into being as religious 
stories to explain natural phenomena and sanction 
customs otherwise inexplicable to the primitive mind. 

Mythology may be regarded as the key to the dramatic 



SURVEY OF MYTHOLOGICAL LORE 185 

representations of emotions and desires, on which so 
much depends in savage communities. As belief came 
to play a more important part in religion, through the 
development of the human mind, there was a tendency 
to systematize and moralize these stories. Thus the 
doctrine of an Alcheringa folk or Mura muras probably 
developed into polytheism such as is common in ancient 
Greece. It is therefore not surprising to find a remark- 
able similarity to the adventures of the Alcheringa folk 
in some of the Greek myths. For instance the Greek 
legends suppose that in the beginning heaven and earth — 
regarded as husband and wife — were indissolubly united, 
and between them they begat gods, who never saw the 
light. A number of monsters were born from elemental 
powers, and the divine species was continued by the 
marriage of Rhea and Cronus. The gods assume animal 
forms : Rhea becomes a mare, Cronus a horse, and Zeus 
■ — the offspring of Rhea — begets separate families of 
men in the shape of a bull, a serpent, an ant, and a 
swan. From him several of the royal houses claimed 
descent in the form of one or other of his manifestations 
(ant, swan, etc.). Here surely is a survival of the primi- 
tive custom of regarding the various groups of men 
and women as having originated in animals and plants 
with which they are still in mystic sympathy. Zeus, 
it is true, in due course became an anthropomorphic 
deity — the " All-Father " — but only by the original 
savage myth becoming more complex and picturesque. 
Similar stories are found among the Maoris of New 
Zealand, the Polynesians, and in ancient Egyptian 
mythology. 

In primitive cult the All-Father, who, like the con- 
ception of an Alcheringa, occupies a prominent place 
in early mythological lore, is remote and unconcerned 
with the doings of men except so far as the sound of 
the bull-roarer and other ceremonies, duly performed, 



186 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

give him pleasure. In more developed culture gods 
are thought to be attentive when, in times of extremity, 
man cries to them. Viewed in the light of later develop- 
ments, mythology, in its representation of a golden past 
when gods and spirits lived on the earth and organized 
the social and religious institutions, is the product of 
the religious nature of man. 

It is not only in order to give authority to accepted 
rites and customs that myths arise. It sometimes hap- 
pens, as has been shown, that an individual passes into 
an ecstatic state and dances a new dance or performs 
a new ceremony. The gestures are handed on from 
performer to performer and from tribe to tribe, till the 
original significance of the performance is entirely lost, 
if, in fact, it were ever known. It is therefore necessary 
to invent stories to explain the meaningless rites. Like- 
wise, when events long since forgotten, connected with 
the chase or blood-revenge, are re-enacted time after 
time as dramatic representations, myths relating to the 
" brave days of old " grow up to explain the now mean- 
ingless commemorative ritual. Thus, in conclusion, it 
may be said, that from this brief survey of primitive 
mythological lore it appears that the theory of Robert- 
son Smith that myth was originally derived from ritual, 
not ritual from myth, is in the main true, though there 
may be exceptions to the rule. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 

The evidence for " High Gods among low races." — Atnatu in 
the Kaitish Nurrundere of the Narrinyeri — Nurelli of the Wiim- 
baio — Bunjil of the Wotjobaluk — Baiame, the All-Father of 
the Kamilaroi, not a creation of the missionaries — The evidence 
for and against prayer being offered to Baiame — Daramulun of 
the Yuin and other coastal tribes — Koin, Maamba, Pirral, 
Kohin — The function of the All- Father — His relation to spirits. 
The belief in High Gods among other primitive people (Melan- 
esians, Andamanese, Bantu, Bushmen) — The origin of All 
Fathers — Monotheism among the Hebrews — The Yahweh cult — 
The realization of Messianic expectations. 

IN 1898 Mr. Andrew Lang called attention to a class 
of facts hitherto overlooked by anthropologists. 
In "The Making of Religion," he gives an account 
of " High Gods of low races," as distinct from the idea 
of ghost or spirit. Formerly it had been generally 
supposed that the " ideas of god and of the soul are the 
result of early fallacious reasonings about misunder- 
stood experiences." Each man was believed to have a 
ghost or soul, which could temporally leave the body 
and appear elsewhere in any other body. Thus, accord- 
ing to Tylor, the first philosophy of nature, called by 
him " animism," arose from naive thinking about 
visions of dreams and trances, the phenomena of sleep 
and hallucination, comparisons of life with death, and 
health with sickness. At death the spirit was formed, 
which, unlike the soul, may enter and inhabit perman- 
ently (not temporarily as with the soul) any organism. 
In this way animism is made " the groundwork of the 

187 



188 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

philosophy of religion, from that of savages up to that 
of civilized man. ... In its full development, it includes 
the belief in controlling deities and subordinate spirits, 
in souls, and in a future state, these doctrines practically 
resulting in some kind of active worship." x This he 
describes as the " minimum definition of religion." 

In the second volume of " Primitive Culture," he passes 
from the fundamental doctrine of souls to the derived 
doctrine of spirits. " The doctrine of souls founded 
on the natural perception of primitive man, gave rise 
to the doctrine of spirits. . . . The conception of a 
human soul served as a type or a model on which he 
framed not only his idea of other souls of lower grade, 
but also his idea of spiritual beings in general, from 
the tiniest elf that sports in the long grass up to the 
heavenly Creator." x 

The evidence of the belief in a High God or, as Howitt 
terms him, an All-Father, in Australia, is sufficient evi- 
dence of itself to show that the theory of Tylor and 
Herbert Spencer which explains the Supreme Being in 
primitive cult, as merely the idea of spirit or ghost, 
carried to the highest power, is no longer tenable. It 
has already been demonstrated that in the Australian 
myths the High God is represented as existing before 
Death entered the world, and that he still exists in the 
sky. He is seldom conceived as a spirit. He is simply 
an eternal being, who lived long on the earth, which he is 
often supposed to have had a share in creating, and then 
went to his own place, whence he watches over the 
natives and their conduct, especially during the initia- 
tion ceremonies. Atnatu, believed in by the Kaitish 
tribe, is a good example of such a supreme Being. He 
arose up in the sky in the very far back past — further 
back even than the Alcheringa. He made himself and 

1 " Primitive Culture," I, xi., 38, 386. 

2 Op. cit., pp. 99, 100. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 189 

gave himself his name, and he has another sky and 
another sun beyond the place in which he lives. The 
stars are his moras, and he also calls his daughters 
" kurallia " (stars) but his sons he calls Atnatu. Before 
the Alcheringa times he had plenty of sons and daugh- 
ters in the sky, but he was very angry with a number of 
them because they did not treat him properly. They 
gave him no Churinga and did not perform sacred 
ceremonies for him, as they ought to have done, so he 
threw them down to the earth, into the Kaitish country, 
dropping them through a hole in the sky. He sent 
down everything that the black fellow has — spears, 
boomerangs, tomahawks, clubs, etc. In the sky, where 
he lives, he makes Intichiuma and eats everything. He 
is glad when he hears the sound of the bull-roarer, as 
the natives initiate the boys, but he is angry and punishes 
them if they do not sound the sacred object at initia- 
tion ceremonies, by hurling spears down and drag- 
ging the boys and men up into the sky. The women 
know nothing about Atnatu but think that the roar- 
ing of the bull-roarers is the voice of a spirit called 
Tumana, who plays the part of Twanyirika among the 
Arunta. 1 

The " ghost theory " of Herbert Spencer or the 
" animistic theory " of Tylor breaks down when it en- 
counters High Gods like Atnatu : and more especially 
is this the case when either of these theories is viewed 
in the light of Howitt's evidence from the tribes in 
the south-east of Australia. He says, " altogether 
apart from the ' Mura-mura,' Alcheringa ancestors, 
or the " Muk-Kurnai " is the supernatural anthropo- 
morphic being in whom the tribes of the south-east of 
Australia believe, under different names." 2 The Nar- 
rinyeri call the Supreme Being Nurrundere or Martum- 

1 " Northern Tribes of Central Australia," pp. 498-499. 

2 " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," pp. 488 ff. 



igo PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

mere. He is said to have made all things on the earth, 
and to have given to men the weapons of war and hunt- 
ing, and to have instituted all the rites and ceremonies 
which are practised by the aborigines. Nurrundere is 
the ultimate authority for all magico-religious customs, 
and is therefore treated with great reverence. He is 
thought to have gone to Wyirra-warre (the sky), taking 
his children with him. 

The Wiimbaio regard Nurelli as the Creator of the 
whole country, with the rivers, trees, and animals. 
He gave to the blacks their laws, and finally ascended 
to the sky, where they point him out as one of the con- 
stellations. His place of ascension is supposed to be 
at Lake Victoria, on the north side of the river Murray, 
about fifty miles from Wentworth. Pirnmeleeal, a 
gigantic person living above the clouds, is the counter- 
part of Nurelli in the tribes of south-west Victoria. 

Bunjil is the All-Father of the Wotjobaluk. He is 
spoken of as Mami-ngorak, that is, " Our Father," and 
is considered to dwell beyond the sky. In this tribe 
there are no initiation ceremonies of the Bora type. 
The medicine men generally keep to themselves cer- 
tain beliefs as to Mungan-ngaua, Daramulun, or Baiame 
from the uninitiated. The Kulin think that Bunjil is 
an old man who taught them the arts of life, made the 
earth, trees, and men, and is the embodiment of wisdom 
and knowledge. According to one legend, he regulated 
the marriage system of the tribe. Another story tells 
how Bunjil held out his hand to the sun and warmed it, 
and the sun warmed the earth, which opened, emanat- 
ing black-fellows who danced his corrobboree called 
Gayip. At this ceremony images curiously carved in 
bark were exhibited. He was also spoken of as " Our 
Father " in the Woeworung tribe, and by the old women 
among the Kurnai. The initiated of this latter tribe 
are told that he lived long ago on the earth, and taught 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 191 

the Kurnai to make implements, nets, canoes, weapons, 
and, in fact, everything that they do and know. He 
gave them their names, and, on one occasion, when 
some one revealed the secrets to the women, he sent 
his fire, the Aurora Australis, with most disastrous 
results. Then the sea rushed over the land and nearly 
all mankind was drowned. Those who survived became 
the Muk-Kurnai, the rest being turned into animals, 
birds, reptiles, fishes, etc. He then left the earth and 
ascended into the sky, where he still remains. 1 

Baiame, the well-known All-Father of the Kamilaroi, 
was first definitely described by Mr. James Manning, 
who began his researches in the district about 1833, 
before Melbourne existed or missionaries had made 
their influence felt in that part of the country. Unfor- 
tunately he described the All-Father in terms of Christ- 
ian theology, and thus transforms him and his son Gro- 
gorally into close conformity with the first two Persons 
of the Blessed Trinity. Apart from his Christian ter- 
minology, Manning's account of Baiame is in the main 
corroborated by Mrs. Langloh Parker. " I was first 
told of Byamee (usually spelled Baiame) in whispers," 
she says, "by a very old native, Yudtha Dullubah 
(bald head) , said to have been already grey-haired when 
Sir Thomas Mitchell discovered the Narran in 1846. 
My informant said that he was instructed as to Byamee 
in his first Boorah, or initiation. If he was early grey, 
say at thirty, in 1846, that takes his initiation back to 
1830, when, as a matter of fact, we have contemporary 
evidence to the belief in Byamee, who is not of mis- 
sionary importation, though after 1856 Christian ideas 
may, through Mr. Ridley's book (' Gurre Kamilaroi ') 
have been attached to his name by educated Kamilaroi. 
But he was a worshipful being, revealed in the mysteries, 

1 " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," pp. 489-493. 



i 9 2 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

long before missionaries came, as all my informants 
aver." 1 

Baiame is to the Kamilaroi what the Alcheringa is to 
the Arunta. He lived in the " Dream Time " and 
changed birds and beasts into men and women, made 
other folk of clay or stone, taught them everything, 
and left laws for their guidance, then returned to the 
sky, whence he, and the two women who accompanied 
him, came and still exist. The origin of myths and 
rites is assigned to Baiame. " Because Baiame says 
so," is the phrase in this district that corresponds to 
the Arunta expression, " it was so in the Alcheringa." 
At the Bora ceremony he is proclaimed as the " Father 
of All," whose laws the tribes are now obeying. " A 
Wiradjuri myth makes him the original source of all 
the totems, and of the marriage laws. The chief wife 
of Baiame, Birrahgnooloo, is claimed as the mother of 
all ; for she, like him, had a totem for each part of 
her body ; no one totem can claim her, but all do. She 
too is partially crystallized above the sky ; the upper 
parts of their bodies are on the earth. 

Mrs. Parker maintains that on two occasions prayers 
were made to Baiame : (i) at the Bora ceremony ; (2) 
at the graveside of an initiated man. 2 In (1) he is asked 
to let the blacks live long, since they have kept his cere- 
mony, the Bora ; in (2) to let the soul of the departed 
enter " Bullimah " (heaven), since he has kept the Bora 
laws. This is the only evidence of definite prayer to an 
All-Father in Australia, although the dance of the medi- 
cine-men around the life-sized figure of Daramulun, 
shouting the name of the god, may constitute a primitive 
form of prayer. The Dieri custom of calling upon the 
rain-making Mura-muras to give them power to make 
a heavy rain fall, calling out in loud voices the impover- 
ished state of the country, and the half-starved condi- 
1 " Euahlayi Tribe," p. 5. 2 Op. cit., pp. 8, 9, 79, 80. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 193 

tion of the tribe in consequence, is a case of prayer 
being made to a mythical being (as distinct from an All- 
Father). 1 

Dr. Marett thinks that Mrs. Parker's evidence of 
prayer among the Euahlayi is contaminated by mis- 
sionary influence. 2 Ridley's use of Baiame as a term 
for God the Father makes it easy to conclude that the 
Euahlayi rites and customs are due to a proselytizing 
tendency in the immediate vicinity, and that the instruc- 
tion in the art of praying to the High God is but the 
outcome of the missionary exploitation of the name 
of Baiame. However, as Mr. Andrew Lang points out 
in his reply to Dr. Marett, Mrs. Parker has recorded 
earlier versions of what she heard about prayer among 
the Euahlayi in her " Legendary Tales." 3 Further- 
more, the nearest mission station was a hundred miles 
away and was founded after she settled among the tribe. 
This latter fact is of importance when it is remembered 
that her chief informants were the old men. 4 A point 
of theological interest is raised by one of the prayers 
consisting of a petition for the repose of the soul of the 
departed man. It is highly improbable that this particular 
prayer would have proceeded from Mr. Ridley's influ- 
ence. On the other hand Dr. Marett's view is supported 
by the fact that the Euahlayi rites were in a state of 
decay, and, judging from the heavy penalties that were 
inflicted on natives who failed to keep the ceremonies 
of Baiame, it is reasonable to suppose that a proselytiz- 
ing influence was at work in the neighbourhood. 

Notwithstanding the controversy that has raged 
round Baiame, Tylor's theory that the All-Father was 
a creation of the missionaries between 1830 and 1840, 

1 Howitt, " South-Eastern Tribes," 394-396. 

2 " Man," VII, pp. 2, 3, 114, 115. 

3 Op. cit., pp. 67-69. 

4 " Euahlayi Tribe," p. 2. 

13 



ig 4 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

is clearly untenable. Missionaries were only tempor- 
arily in the Wellington valley before 1831. In 1823 
the Rev. George Clark, who was sent out by the Church 
Missionary Society to join the New Zealand mission, was 
detained at Sydney and placed in charge of an institu- 
tion projected by the New South Wales Government 
for the instruction of aborigines, near Parramatta. Mr. 
Clark, however, did not remain very long in the district. 
Two years later a priest and a schoolmaster were sent 
out as the result of an urgent appeal, but, for reasons 
which need not be considered here, neither of them 
actually took up the work. In 1828 a Wesleyan mis- 
sion was established in the neighbourhood, and in 1831 
the Rev. J. C. Handt and the Rev. W. Watson, who 
were shortly afterwards joined by the Rev. J. Gunther, 
began an Anglican mission. In 1836, Mr. Handt pro- 
ceeded to Moreton Bay. Unhappily the work both in 
the Wellington valley and at Moreton Bay was a failure, 
and in 1842 it had to be abandoned. In 1840 the Rev. 
George King arrived at Freemantle in West Australia, 
and soon commenced an excellent work under the aus- 
pices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. 
It was reserved for him to have the privilege of receiv- 
ing the first of the native children into the Church by 
Baptism, and therefore he may be regarded as the real 
founder of the aboriginal Church. In 1849 he was 
compelled, through ill-health, to give up the work. It 
was not till 1853 that the first adult natives — ten men 
and one woman — were baptized at Boonindie. The 
first Roman Catholic missionaries — two Spanish Bene- 
dictine monks, Dom Joseph Serra and Dom Rosenda 
Salvado — landed at Freemantle on January 8, 1846. In 
February of the following year they set forth to their 
work among the natives, about seventy miles north- 
east of Perth, at New Norcia (Murrin), where they 
erected a monastery, and opened a school in 1&48. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 195 

It will therefore be seen that up to 1840 the influence 
of Christianity was hardly felt at all among the natives 
of Australia, and it was not until 1855 that Ridley 
published " Gurre Kamilaroi." It is therefore impos- 
sible to assume that Baiame was the creation of the 
missionaries between 1830 and 1840, since Mr. Hender- 
son gives an account of " Piame " (Baiame) and the 
initiation ceremonies over which he presides, in 1829 — 
three years before any missionaries came to those parts. 
Mrs. Parker's informant is said to have been instructed 
as to Baiame at his initiation about 1830, and Manning's 
account of the All-Father was written in 1844 after ten 
years' work among the aborigines. "For the first four 
or five years or more of that earliest time," he says, 
(i.e. ten years before he made the notes), " there was no 
church south of the little one at Bong-bong at Mitta- 
gong. ... No missionary ever came to the southern 
districts at any time, and it was not until many years 
later that the missionaries landed at Sydney on 
their way to Moreton Bay." 1 (It is not quite clear 
as to which " landing at Sydney " he refers. As has 
been pointed out above Clark was detained there in 
1823, and Handt, in 1836, proceeded to Moreton Bay. 
Since Manning did not begin his work till 1833, he seems 
hardly correct in saying that " it was not until many 
years later that missionaries landed at Sydney "). 

It was no doubt due to Ridley's Christian terminology 
that Dr. Tylor put forth his view of the origin of Baiame. 
The account certainly shows markedly Christian char- 
acteristics. He refers to the god as dwelling in a " heaven 
of beautiful appearance, seated on a throne of transparent 
crystal, and aided by his son Grogorally, and by the 
second mediator, in the supernatural person, of their 



1 J. Manning, " Royal Society of New South Wales," Nov. 
1882. 



196 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

intercessor Moodgegally. 1 It should, however, be remem- 
bered that the visit of the medicine-man to the camp 
of Baiame, quoted on good authority, bears a striking 
resemblance to Christian apocalyptic literature. 

Among the Yuin and other coastal tribes Daramulun 
is the All-Father. Long ago he lived on the earth with 
his mother Ngalalbal. The earth was then bare, with 
only animals, birds, and reptiles living upon it. He 
placed trees on the barren ground, and, after Kaboka, 
the thrush, had caused a great flood to cover all the 
coastal country, no people were left, excepting some 
who crawled out of the water on to Mount Dromedary. 
Then Daramulun went up into the sky, where he lives 
and watches the actions of men. It was he who first 
made the Kuringal (Yuin initiation ceremonies) and the 
bull-roarer, the sound of which represents his voice. 
He told the Yuin what to do, and he gave them the laws 
which the old people have handed down from father 
to son to this time. He gives the Gommeras their 
powers to use the Joias, and other magic. When a 
man dies and his Tulugal (spirit) goes away, it is Dara- 
mulun who meets it and takes care of it. It is a man's 
shadow which goes up to Daramulun. Such are the 
beliefs which are taught at the Yuin Kuringal, and as 
the Ngarigo tribe attend these ceremonies, they too 
believe the same. 2 

The Lake Macquarie tribes believe in a supernatural 
being called Koin, who lives in the Ruling (Milky Way). 
In the Herbert River district Maamba, Birral, and 
Kohin represent High Gods, according to Dr. Howitt. 3 

There is good prima facie evidence for the existence of 
the All-Father belief in the south-eastern tribes. In 



1 Howitt, " South-eastern Tribes," pp. 501-502. 

2 Howitt, ''South-eastern Tribes," pp. 494-495. 

3 Op. cit., pp. 497-499. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 197 

the central area, though the evidence is less conclusive, 
there appears to be a belief in a being not unlike Baiame. 
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, however, say, "we know 
of no tribe in which there is a belief of any kind in a 
supreme being who rewards and punishes the individual 
according to his moral behaviour, using the word moral 
in the native sense." x They maintain that Twanyirika 
of the Arunta and Unmatjeri of the Binbingas are merely 
bogeys to frighten the women and children, and to keep 
them in a state of subjection. But does it necessarily 
follow that because the Central and Northern tribes 
now teach their boys at initiation that the All-Father 
is merely a myth, that they always did so ? May it not 
be, as Dr. Jevons suggests, that belief in the All-Father 
was the original or earlier belief that degenerated into 
a mere survival when faith in it, for whatever reason, 
was lost. 2 As a matter of fact, disbelief pre-supposes 
the existence of the belief since it could hardly be dis- 
believed before it existed. This conclusion is supported 
by Spencer and Gillen's evidence from the Kaitish tribe. 
These people believe in a spirit individual called Atnatu 
who made the Alcheringa and stands in a real relation 
to the initiation ceremonies, for he is pleased when he 
hears the sound of the bull-roarer, and is angry when 
it is not swung. Strehlow finds a sky-being named 
Altjira Mara (the Good), known to the southern Arunta 
The neighbouring tribe, the Loritja, have a similar 
being, Tukura, indifferent except as to rites. 3 Gillen 
also discovered a sky-dwelling being among the Arunta, 
named " the great Uthaana of the heavens." Nothing 
is said of his functions except that the spirits of the 
dead ascend to him, and are cast by him into the sea, 

1 " Northern Tribes," p. 491. 

2 " Religion in Evolution," p. 17. 

3 " My then, Sag en, und Marchendes Aranda Stammes," 1907, 
Vol. I. 



198 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

whence they are rescued by two minor Ulthaana, and 
thenceforth live with the lesser Ulthaana. 1 It is 
therefore open to question how far the account given 
by Spencer and Gillen on this subject is exhaustive. 
On the west coast, between Geraldton and Albany, the 
evidence is scanty. However, a being called Mamma 
Gnara, Father of all, is reverenced in this region. 2 The 
Cape River tribes are said to believe in a sky-being, to 
whom good men go when they die. 3 It will therefore 
be seen that the All-Father belief is very widely distri- 
buted in Australia. Mr. N. W. Thomas is of the 
opinion that " it can hardly be definitely asserted that 
there is or was any tribe which had not some such 
belief/' 4 

This supplementary evidence not only suggests the 
universality of belief in the All-Father but also that 
the ideas of the Northern and Central tribes are the 
results of a degradation from an earlier and more primi- 
tive conception as set forth by the South-Eastern tribes, 
so ably studied by Mr. Howitt. A parallel case has been 
found by Mr. Nassau among certain Bantu tribes in 
Africa. Here the negroes in the interior genuinely 
believe in an All-Father, Ukuku, while elsewhere the 
whole proceeding connected with the spirit is known 
to be a " gigantic lie." ' 5 It is a far cry from Australia 
to Western Africa, and yet there is an almost identical 
belief among the natives of either country regarding 
High Gods. Certain sections of the people believe 
that the God of the Mysteries made them, gave them 
their laws, and preserves all things, while others regard 
the spirit merely as a bogey to frighten the women and 

1 " Horn Expedition," iv. , p. 183. 

2 " Trans. Royal Society South Australia," xvi., p. 488. 

3 Curr, " Australian Race," hi., p. 146. 
* " Natives of Australia," p. 224. 

6 " Fetichism in West Africa," p. 140. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 199 

children, having nothing to do with moral conduct. 
Among the Bantu peoples there is a fairly universal 
belief in an All-Father as a Creator (Nzame), though 
" these religious ideas have practically no influence now 
on the ordinary life." 1 There is, in short, a general 
tendency to degeneration from the more lofty concep- 
tions associated with the All-Father belief in primitive 
times. There can be little doubt that the doctrine 
once was not without influence on the ordinary life of 
those who held it, and yet to-day religion and morality 
are often divorced in Australia. Furthermore, it seems 
highly improbable that there never was a time when 
some cult or ritual was connected with the High God, 
inasmuch as he now appears to be the central figure in 
the initiation ceremonies among the South-East tribes 
of /Australia, and is intimately associated with the 
bull-roarer that plays so important a part in these rites 
in the Central area. 

Jevons thinks that prayers and sacrifices were part 
of the original " worship " of the All-Father belief in 
Australia, 2 citing Mrs. Parker's evidence from the Euah- 
layi tribe to show that prayer was once offered to Baiame. 
On this hypothesis both the Intichiuma and Initiation 
rites are descended from a ritual in which the doctrine 
taught was belief in the All-Father, and in which the 
rites observed consisted in a sacrifice or sacramental 
meal. Thus, the religious element is supposed to have 
evaporated, in the case of the Northern and Central 
tribes, from both ceremonies. Certainly survivals of 
such a belief are not altogether lacking, as has been 
shown, in the Initation rites, and it may be conjectured 
that the ceremonial eating of the totem animal or plant, 

1 M. Allegret, " Revue de l'Histoire des Religions," pp. 223- 
226. 

2 " Introduction to Study of Comp. Rel.," p. 10 1 ; Op. cit., 
pp. 31 ff- 



200 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

which at the present day is magical in intent, was ori- 
ginally associated with the All-Father belief. If to- 
temism has survived conspicuously in the Intichiuma 
ceremonies, it also survives in the instruction of the 
boys when they are initiated into the tribal totemic 
mysteries over which the All-Father presides in the 
South-Eastern tribes. Thus totemism is a common 
feature of both Intichiuma and Initiation ceremonies, 
and therefore there is no a priori reason why there 
should not be some system of ritual and belief from 
which both are derived. It has been elsewhere shown 
that the magical control of the food quest is not the 
original purport of the Intichiuma rites. It is there- 
fore possible that Jevons is correct in supposing that 
these ceremonies represent a survival of a primitive 
sacrificial meal over which the All-Father presided much 
in the same way as Daramulun is now the God of the 
Mysteries among certain tribes in the South-Eastern 
area of Australia. 

Associated with the All-Fathers of the south-east 
district is often an evil being, and a set of mythical 
beings — the Mura-mura, etc. Henderson thinks that 
Mudgegong is an evil spirit, who, after having derived 
his existence from Baiame, declared war upon him 
and now endeavours with all his powers to frustrate his 
undertakings." 1 It must be remembered, however, 
that it is by no means easy for an uninitiated European 
observer to get any really accurate information on sacred 
subjects from the natives, and therefore it is quite pos- 
sible that Henderson was mistaken, and Mudgegong 
is really the counterpart of Daramulun, since he is 
the embodiment of the eagle-hawk. Another account 
makes Wandong — one of the sons of Baiame — the 
author of evil, 2 and a third makes Daramulun himself the 

1 " Notes," p. 147. 

2 Macarthur, " New South Wales," p. 301. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 201 

evil one. 1 The Herbert River tribes, according to Curr, 
believe in Boorala, the good spirit, and Goin, a live 
spirit, who is supplied with claws like an eagle-hawk 
and feet like an alligator. Other evil spirits are Brewin 
among the Kurnai ; 2 Jou in south Australia ; Koochie 
among the Dieri, Jingi in West Australia, Coen at Port 
Stephen. 3 

Father Schmidt considers that these myths are the 
result of racial conflicts. Where the crow race was 
victorious, Bunjil (eagle-hawk) is defeated ; elsewhere 
Mudgegong (eagle-hawk) is also defeated but not by 
the crow. 4 The same writer has divided the All-Fathers 
of Australia into three classes : (1) The belief in an All- 
Father pure and simple, as in the case of Mungan-ngaua 
of the Kurnai. (2) The belief in an All-Father w r ho has 
taken over the features of a tribal ancestor, as, for 
example, the Wolgal view of Daramulun. (3) The 
belief in a being who is also a Creator, sometimes govern- 
ing the world through an intermediary subordinate. 
Bunjil and Baiame belong to this third category. 

Fr. Schmidt bases his theory on complex considera- 
tions of totemic organization. He assumes the exist- 
ence of a primary dark race, represented by the crow, 
from which the eagle-hawk and emu have sprung. 
Daramulun and Baiame were originally, he thinks, 
tribal heroes of the invaders. This view is supported 
by the Minkin belief that 'Baiame came from Warde rah 
and taught them the initiation ceremonies. 5 The 
Mikadoons also think that Baiame came from an island 
outside Australia and instructed them as to initiation 
rites. Dr. Howitt has shown that the supernatural 

1 " Anthropos," iii. 

2 " J. A. I." iii., p. 191 ; xiv., p. 321 n. 2. 

3 " South-eastern Tribes," p. 496, and " Natives of Australia," 
pp. 224-226. 4 " Anthropos," iii., 1908. 

5 " Australian Anthropological Journal," i., p. 14. 



202 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

being called Kohin recognized by the Herbert River peo- 
ple, has a counterpart in Coen at Port Stephen in the 
south. 1 If these beings are identical the question of 
distance need be no barrier to the acceptance of the 
supposed belief in Baiame in the north of the continent, 
especially as this belief in the more northern tribes 
is that of a tribal hero rather than as an All-Father of 
the Creator type. 

That there is a belief in " High Gods of low races " is 
now placed beyond question. From the above evidence 
it is clear that the conception of an All-Father is widely 
distributed in Australia, and that Tylor's view, repre- 
senting such beings as the idea of ghost or spirit carried 
to the highest power, is no longer tenable. It is equally 
certain that the belief is not of European importation. 
The mere fact that this remarkable doctrine may have 
been used by missionaries to present the Christian 
development of faith in the Holy Trinity, is not an 
argument against the overwhelming evidence in favour 
of supposing that the All-Father conception is a part 
of the " esoteric " faith of man in a primitive state 
of culture. The existence of High Gods among low 
races was a most unfortunate discovery for anthropolo- 
gists like Frazer who adopt a stratigraphical system 
of magi co-religious development. Anthropomorphic 
beings could hardly exist in an age of magic, and since 
Frazer had assumed the Australians to be in this so- 
called preliminary stage of religious evolution, he was 
forced to abandon his theory or explain away the evi- 
dence in favour of an All-Father belief. He chose the 
latter course. After summarizing Howitt's conclusions 
he quotes Professor Sir Baldwin Spencer — " As to the 
f discovery ' of a high ethical religion amongst the 
lowest savages, there is not, I am convinced, any such 
thing in Australia. The great difficulty is that we 

1 " Native Tribes of South-eastern Australia," pp. 496-498. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 203 

have had statements made on the authority of men 
like Gason. The latter was a police-trooper, I believe, 
who was perfectly honest, but at the same time per- 
fectly incapable of dealing with matters such as these." 
He was, however, familiar with the native language 
as well as with the aborigines themselves. Frazer goes 
on to say : " In the days when the evidence of Baiame 
and Daramulun was collected, the importance of secur- 
ing minute and detailed information was not realized." x 
A glance at the works of so eminent an anthropologist 
as Dr.Howitt — himself an initiated member of Australian 
society — is sufficient to nullify this argument, to say 
nothing of the researches of people like Mrs. Langloh 
Parker, Mr. Andrew Lang, Mr. N. W. Thomas, etc. 
Furthermore Professor Spencer himself has found an 
All-Father (Atnatu) among the Central tribes, though, 
for obvious reasons, he prefers to call the god a " spirit 
individual." Nevertheless he is a self-created being 
who made " everything that the black- fellow has," 
and no mere ghost or glorified ancestor. 

Again, the belief in High Gods is not confined to Aus- 
tralia. It is found in some form in almost all early 
cults. The Andamanese think that Puluga — an in- 
visible god who was never born and is immortal — 
created all things except evil. He knows the thoughts 
of men, is angered by sin (falsehood, theft, murder, 
adultery, bad carving of meat, and witchcraft). He 
is pitiful to those in distress, relieves the suffering, and 
judges the souls of men after death. He lives in a large 
stone house, eats and drinks, and is married to a green 
shrimp. Mr. Man, a recognized authority who lived 
in the Andaman Islands for eleven years, says that this 
belief is not due to missionary influence, as the natives 
always shot all foreigners, and have no traditions of 
aliens on the islands. 2 
1 " Totemism and Exogamy," L, p. 148. 2 " J. A. I.," xii., p. 138. 



204 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Dr. Codrington supplies similar information from 
Melanesia. He says : " Beings of a more or less dis- 
tinctly spiritual nature who at any rate have never been 
men, have their place in the beliefs and in the stories of 
the Banks Islands and the New Hebrides very much 
more than in the Solomon Islands. Koevasi in Florida 
and Kahausibware in San Cristoval belong to the latter 
group and may well be supposed to be the same personage 
under different names. Both were never human, yet 
in some way originators of the human race ; both were 
females, both subject to stories, not objects of worship. 
... It was Kahausibware who made men, pigs, and 
other animals, cocoa-nuts, fruit-trees, and all the food 
with which the island is now furnished, and death had 
not yet appeared. 1 These beings certainly appear to be 
High Gods. Mr. Andrew Lang would also put in the 
same category the innumerable and unnamed " purely 
spiritual beings who are incorporeal " (Vui), mentioned 
by Codrington, with whom he disagrees in describing 
them as spirits. "A Vui," he says, " is not a spirit that 
has been a ghost," and therefore to avoid confusion of 
terms, he prefers to call them Beings or Gods. 2 There 
is some justification for this distinction, since one of the 
Vui — Qat by name — whose " place in the popular 
beliefs of the Banks Islanders was so high and so con- 
spicuous that when the people first became known to 
Europeans it was supposed that he was their god, the 
supreme Creator of men and pigs and food. It is certain 
that he was believed to have made things in another 
sense from that in which men could be said to make 
them. To the present day a mother chides a fractious, 
sleepy child or one crying with hunger with the words, 
' Do you think you are going to die ? Don't you know 
that Qat made you so ? ' If a pig comes indoors to 

1 " Melanesia, p. 150. 

2 " Making of Religion," pp. 197-198. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 205 

sleep in bad weather, the man who drives it out says 
to it, ' Qat made you to stay outside.' . . . The regular 
course of the seasons is ascribed to him. . . . With all 
this it is impossible to take Qat very seriously or to 
allow him divine rank. He is certainly not the lord of 
spirits. . . . When he is said to create he is adding only 
to the furniture of the world in wliich he was born." x 

Oat, then, is a Creator in the sense that he deter- 
mines the regular courses of the seasons and adds to 
the furniture of the world. Yet since he only re- 
arranges existing material it might be more correct to 
place him in a category of transformers. Supu, of the 
Melanesian island Vate, is perhaps a better example of a 
Creator pure and simple. 

Numerous other examples of Supreme Beings as 
Creators have been cited in all parts of the uncivilized 
world. Among the Todas every clan has its god, 
who was the Creator and instructor of the people. 2 
The Hawaiian Creators, Kanu and Tangaloa, are fully 
formed deities, like the Samoan Tangaloa. 3 The Maoris 
have divine figures of heaven and earth whose children 
were producers of all things in the world. On the 
west coast of Africa the Yorubans, a most advanced 
tribe with a well-developed Pantheon, have deities called 
Creators — Obatala, who made the first pair out of clay, 
and If a, the restorer of the world after the flood. 4 Lang 
in the preface to the new edition of " Myth, Ritual and 
Religion," ascribes creative functions to the New Eng- 
land Kichtan and the Virginian Oki ; and the Brazilian 
Tupan and Jurupari are regarded as divine Creators. 5 

Miss Mary Kingsley finds anthropomorphic beings 

1 Op. cit., pp. 154, 155. 

2 Rivers, " Todas," chap. xix. 

3 " Primitive Culture," 3rd Ed., ii., p. 344 ff. 
* "Yoruba," p. 38 ff., p. 56 ff. 

5 " Encycl. Rel. Ethics," art. " Brazil." 



206 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

among the Bantu. She says that the " god in the sense 
that we use the word is in essence the same in all the 
Bantu tribes I have met with on the coast ; a non- 
interfering and therefore a negligible quantity. . . . 
They regard their god as the Creator of men, plants, 
animals and the earth, and they hold that having made 
them, he takes no further interest in them. ,,:L The Bush- 
men, according to Qing, a native who had never seen a 
white man except fighting, recognize in Cagn the god 
who made all things. " He was at first very good but 
he got spoilt through fighting so many things." 2 

That prayers or sacrifices were offered to anthropo- 
morphic beings is exceedingly doubtful, since they are 
usually conceived of as eternal, immortal, benevolent, 
and often creative beings who take little or no interest 
in human conduct except in matters of ritual. " Sacri- 
fice and prayer," says Fr. Schmidt, become more and 
more numerous and more artificial in proportion as the 
idea of a Supreme Being grows dim." 3 It is to the 
Alcheringa ancestors, or the Mura-tnura that the native 
turns in times of drought with requests for rain, and 
to supply reasons for his sacred rites, just as it is their 
adventures that he dramatically represents in his pan- 
tomimic dances. Thus, such beings, in the process of 
time, are sought after with sacrifice and prayer, while 
the All-Father, remote and in need of nothing that man 
can give, becomes a mere name, and is rarely propitiated 
by sacrifice. 

It seems that Israel is the only exception to this neg- 
lect. By patriarch and prophet " the idea of a supreme 
and ethical Creator, Judge and Father was strenuously 
kept alive," 4 though often with great difficulty. This 

1 " Trades in West Africa," p. 442. 

2 "Making of Religion," p. 210. 

3 " Anthropos," iii., p. 604. 

4 "Encycl. of Rel. and Ethics," art. " God " (Lang). 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 207 

" Peculiar People " appears to have been less curious 
than other nations concerning the dead and their pro- 
pitiation, and less animistic ; they were therefore the 
more free to concentrate their religious instincts on the 
Eternal. Thus it may have come about that, while 
the foolish heart of the surrounding nations was dark- 
ened, the Jews preserved a primitive monotheism. It 
is, however, not to be inferred from this suggestion 
that currency is here given to Fr. Schmidt's theory of 
a primitive revelation in Australia. 1 Such a conclusion 
is highly improbable and certainly unprovable. 

The theory of the origin of the All-Father is at most 
pure speculation. Lang thinks that Supreme Beings 
were conceived by way of answer to the question, " Why 
do we perform these rites ? " 2 If primitive man 
found himself performing certain ceremonies and sub- 
sequently looked about for an initiator, whom he found 
in the Corn Spirit, Baiame, or Manabozho, then ritual 
must have preceded myth. Dr. Marett suggests that 
the prototype of the divinities addressed as "Our Father " 
is nothing more nor less than the bull-roarer. " Its 
thunderous booming must have been eminently awe- 
inspiring to the first inventors, or rather discoverers, of 
the instrument, and would not unnaturally provoke 
the ' animistic ' attribution of life and power to it. 
Then mythology seems to have stepped in to explain 
why and how the bull-roarer enforces these tribal 
ceremonies with which it is associated." 3 

Against this view Mr. Lang has brought the objection 
that the bull-roarer is found where such beings are 
apparently unheard of. 4 Neither Althaana nor Altjira 
has anything to do with the bull-roarer. Furthermore, 

1 " Anthropos," iii., p. 559. 

2 " Making of Religion," 2nd Ed., xiv. 

3 " Threshold of Religion." pp. 16, 17. 

4 "Encyclop. of Rel. and Ethics," art. "God." 



208 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

it is the thunderous voice of the god rather than the 
bull-roarer that inspires awe. It is true, however, that 
the bull-roarer and the All-Father are closely associated 
in initiation rites, and there may be some very vital 
connexion between the god and the instrument. In 
fact, among the Kaitish the bull-roarer is actually sup- 
posed to have dropped down from heaven. But there 
are a few cases in which All-Fathers are found in places 
where the bull-roarer is unknown. 

Howitt thinks that Supreme Beings are idealized 
chiefs, but the connexion between an ideal head-man 
and an immortal Creator is not very apparent. It seems 
more probable that High Gods are the result of a psy- 
chological process whereby the mind of man tried to 
reach out to the Infinite and conceived a supreme, 
immortal, everlasting Creator — the prototype of Yah- 
weh of the Hebrews. Be this as it may, it is evident 
that the Jews took over a pre-existing belief in One God. 
If the All-Father belief is really primitive and practi- 
cally universal, and the Jews alone elevated their 
religion to that of pure monotheism, a very good reason 
is found for their becoming the " Chosen People." 

Even if a primitive revelation could be proved to have 
taken place in Australia, the present All-Father belief 
could only be explained by a process of devolution 
because the conception of a Supreme Being in primi- 
tive cult is not monotheism in the sense understood by 
the Israelites. The Jews therefore remain the first 
to have formulated a definite belief in One God. On 
this hypothesis the choice was of their own making, 
and therefore the moral difficulties associated with the 
partiality of the Deity in choosing out one nation for a 
special revelation are removed. They had " kept 
themselves from idols," from worshipping the creature 
rather than the Creator, although there is evidence of 
their falling away from time to time and practising the 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 209 

animism, polytheism, etc., of the surrounding nations 
and tribes. But as often as they fell so often were they 
shown the error of their ways and reclaimed. Thus, 
"Yahweh our God, Yahweh is One " l was the key- 
note from age to age of the religion of the Hebrews. 

It is now placed beyond doubt that Israel took over 
a pre-existing belief in one God. However great a 
genius Moses may have been, he did not create a religion 
out of nothing. It is impossible to suppose that the 
tribes would have responded to the call of an unknown 
and untried god, such as has been suggested by Stade 
and Budde, who make Yahweh the God of the Kenites. 
Tradition is undoubtedly correct when it assumes that 
the God who spoke to Moses from the bush was not an 
unknown Deity, but " the God of thy father " and "the 
God of your fathers," Who had manifested Himself to 
the ancestors of the Hebrew race. 

Now we know that the Semitic tribes akin to the 
Hebrews were polytheists in the sense that they be- 
lieved in the existence of tribal deities, demons and 
spirits, although it has never been proved that they 
were polytheists in the strict sense of the word. They 
deified the sun, the moon, and the heavenly bodies. 
The storm-cloud, thunder, and natural forces were 
regarded as deities. As long as they pursued a pastoral 
life the sun was looked upon as malevolent and destruc- 
tive, while the moon and stars were thought to be 
benevolent, since they appeared to revive the parched 
vegetation. But the intense tribal consciousness of 
the Semites tended in the direction of associating with 
each tribe or clan a definite deity to the exclusion of 
others. From this god the tribe imagined itself to be 
derived much as the Kaitish think they are the creation 
of Atnatu. Now this belief cannot be explained by 
Herbert Spencer's " Ghost theory " or Tylor's animism, 
1 Deut. vi. 4. 



2io PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

since ancestral animism and the cult of the dead were 
never tribal institutions amongst the Semites. 1 The 
origin must be sought in the universal doctrine of an 
All-Father. 

A characteristic feature of the Semitic religions was 
the generic conception of divinity under the title of 
'el or Elohim. The tribal deity was known as adon 
(lord), melek (king), baal (owner). The meaning of 'el is 
uncertain, but apparently it was used as an ideograph 
which might be added to any name to make it the name 
of a god. It was 'el that manifested itself in various 
places and under various forms — a kind of mana attach- 
ing itself to curious or uncanny objects. Equally uncer- 
tain is the use of the plural elohim in Hebrew — also a 
generic term for the Deity, or universal divine nature. 
It is highly improbable that the expression as found in 
the Old Testament is a remnant of an original poly- 
theism as Yahwism is the outcome of tribal and national 
monolatry rather than of polytheism. It is therefore 
better explained as a plural of majesty or an honorific 
plural used to express dignity and greatness, as in 
Addnim, " Lord ". When it is employed to describe 
polytheistic deities it is invariably a real plural, whereas 
in the Old Testament it is used with a singular verb or 
adjective. 

It therefore seems that Renan's theory, ascribing 
to the Semite patriarch from the earliest times a secret 
tendency towards monotheism, 2 has some foundation 
since the Semites recognized the existence of tribal 
deities, and therefore they were at least monolatrous 
and henotheistic. At the same time they show unmis- 
takable polytheistic leanings, as the animistic side of 
the cult became more and more developed. With the 

1 Goldziher, " Le Culte des Ancetres et des Morts chez Arabs 
ii Revue de l'Hist. des Religions," x., 332. 

2 " Histoire du Peuple d'Israel," Bk. I., chap. i. 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 211 

rise of animism there is always a deviation from the 
tribal All-Father, who is in need of nothing and takes 
little or no interest in human conduct, except in matters 
of ritual. It is to the Alcheringa ancestor or the spirits 
that the primitive mind turns in times of drought with 
requests for rain, and to supply a reason for sacred 
ceremonies, just as it is their adventures that he drama- 
tically represents in his pantomimic dances. Thus, 
such beings in process of time become elevated into 
deities who are sought after with sacrifice and prayer, 
while the tribal All-Father, remote and in need of 
nothing that man can give, becomes a mere name, and 
is rarely propitiated by sacrifice. But Israel was incuri- 
ous concerning the dead and their propitiation, and, 
therefore, they were the more free to concentrate effort 
on the conception of an " Our Father " — an idea ob- 
scured in Semitic cult by the rise of polytheism. Thus, 
it seems reasonable to suppose that in the pre-Mosaic 
period the Hebrews had raised their religion from the 
polytheistic level of the surrounding nations and tribes, 
to a belief in an anthropomorphic Being not unlike the 
Australian conception of Baiame. Each tribe had its 
tribal god — Asher, Dan, Gad, etc. — over whom, from 
very remote times, Yahweh reigned supreme. He was 
the Lord, the Ruler, the Master. 

The early Hebrew idea of the Deity supports this 
conclusion. In primitive times He is regarded as an 
anthropomorphic Being, a magnified non-natural man, 
possessed of body, parts and passions. He is said to 
have walked in the garden in the cool of the day and 
the sound of His step is heard (Gen. hi. 8), to have closed 
the door of the Ark (vii. 16), to have come down from 
His heavenly dwelling to see the tower which the people 
had built (xi. 5), to have wrestled with Jacob (xxxii. 16), 
to have visited Abraham in human form (xvii.), and 
written on the tables of stone (Exod. xxxii. 16). 



212 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

In later times such naive anthropomorphism gave 
place to loftier conceptions. In the wilderness " He 
walked with them in a tent and in a tabernacle/' reveal- 
ing Himself in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exod. xl. 38). 
Man cannot see Him face to face, but only His hinder 
parts. So the later writings take us farther and farther 
from the crude and primitive ideas of early times, till, 
in the story of Elijah, it is not in the cloud or the fire 
or the earthquake, but in the still small Voice speaking 
to the heart of man, that God manifests Himself to 
His servant (1 Kings xix. 12). Nevertheless, it is not 
in the prophetic period that ethical monotheism origin- 
ated. Rather must it be explained in terms of evolution, 
as a gradual development from a primitive All-Father 
belief among the early Hebrews. First as an anthro- 
pomorphic Being, and later as the tribal Deity whose 
presence was localized in the Ark, Yahweh trains His 
people to accept the doctrine of an absolute monotheism 
to regard Him as the God Who loves, protects, and 
governs those who trust in Him. Thus, the remote 
tribal All-Father, in need of nothing that man can give, 
and taking little or no interest in the world and the 
creatures he created, gave place to purer ethical 
and metaphysical conceptions as the ethical-religious 
view of God and His relation to Israel and to humanity 
in general, together with the doctrine of the Messianic 
Kingdom, became clearer. 

The Old Testament exhibits the way in which Yah- 
weh dealt with a people who were ready to accept in the 
main monotheistic beliefs, as a father teaches his chil- 
dren, supplementing those religious ideas which were 
the result of contact with Semitic cults by purer and 
loftier spiritual conceptions, so that by the time the 
last book of the Old Testament was admitted into the 
Canon, the Jews had reached a stage of development 
that fully justified the Psalmist's assertion, " He hath 
not dealt so with any nation." 



THE BEGINNING OF THEISM 213 

Thus, were the minds of those whom Dr. Hamilton 
calls the " New Israel," 1 prepared for the revelation of 
the Fatherhood of God. The ethical teaching of the 
prophets emphasized the moral purity of God ; their 
Messianic expectations became more spiritualized and 
complex, until the supreme manifestation was vouch- 
safed in Him in Whom dwelt the fulness of God. The 
main light thus shone more purely and powerfully till 
all shadows of lesser deities were fled away, and the 
conceptions of Israel were fulfilled by Him Who came 
to be at once the Light to lighten the Gentiles and the 
glory of His people Israel. By the Eternal Son assum- 
ing conditions of time the religious concept was satisfied 
that led primitive man to bring himself into union with 
the Divine by sacrifice and prayer to lesser supernatural 
beings. Thus Christianity, with its doctrine of the 
Trinity in unity of the Godhead, meets the entire need 
of man and thereby supplies that which was wanting 
in both Jewish monotheism and pagan polytheism. 

1 " The People of God." 



CHAPTER XIII 
CONCLUSION 

The savage a man of action who " dances out his religion " 
— Ritual a " visible language " and the outward signs of inward 
emotions — The formulations of myths to explain rites — The 
Alcheringa — Private and public rites — The " minimum defini- 
tion of religion." according to Tylor, Frazer, Herbert Spencer, 
Durkheim, Crawley, Marett — The conception of the sacred 
and the " ritual-tabu-mana formula" — Mana — Animatism, 
animism, anthropomorphism — The religious consciousness — 
The doctrine of " pre-logical mentality "• — The unifying element 
in primitive cult — Was there a primitive revelation ? Union 
with God — The evolution of religion — The Incarnation. 

THE aim of the foregoing pages was to give an 
account of primitive ritual and belief with 
special reference to the magico-religious customs 
of the Australian aborigines. Australia being the best- 
known and most extensive country inhabited by a very 
primitive race, it seemed that a careful examination of 
the ritual customs and the associated beliefs of this 
interesting people would be useful not only to the an- 
thropologist but to the theologian, since much light 
can be thrown on the higher religions when viewed from 
the standpoint of primitive cult. Furthermore, Aus- 
tralia has been more carefully studied by competent 
investigators than almost any other region of the un- 
civilized world. By thus confining our attention to a 
really primitive field of research we hope to have avoided 
the pitfalls of a comparative survey of magico-religious 
phenomena, which is tempted to find everywhere analo- 
gies and identities by exaggerating irrelevant features 
and underrating the most essential ones in a given area. 

214 



CONCLUSION 215 

The chief aim of the present study was to give a correct 
and detailed description of the principal customs and 
beliefs characteristic of primitive cult, and, in case of 
such important rites as those connected with sacrifice, 
to trace their evolution through the higher religions 
that the permanent and essential element may be dis- 
covered. It now remains to draw a few general con- 
clusions from the foregoing evidence. 

First as regards origins. Does the myth precede 
ritual, or have the various beliefs associated with sacred 
ceremonies arisen merely to explain the rites ? Wilhelm 
Wundt 1 makes belief the ultimate source of ritual since 
the latter is but the former put into practice. There 
is, on this hypothesis, but one mythical idea at the back 
of all rites, namely, the idea of the soul from which 
magic, fetishism, and totemism have developed. Hubert 
and Mauss, on the other hand, start from the conception 
of rites. 2 Rites are traditional acts that are efficacious 
in a non-mechanical way involving the notion of mana. 
The same idea lies at the base of all ritual, magical 
and religious, the differentia consisting in magical rites 
not forming part of an organized cult, and therefore 
they tend to become illicit. It is probable that a univer- 
sal precedence cannot be determined for either ritual 
or belief. There are cases in which mythological 
beliefs bring about ritual acts, as, for example, when 
an anthropomorphic being is offered gifts of food, etc., 
and -approached with due respect because he is possessed 
of manlike qualities, and at the same time is all-powerful. 
But, generally speaking, ritual is evolved long before 
belief, since primitive man is wont to " dance out his 
religion." The savage does not find it easy to express 
his thoughts in words, and so he resorts to visual lan- 
guage. He thinks with his eyes rather than by articu- 

1 " Volkerpsychologie," Vol. II. Pt. II and III. 

2 " L'Annee Sociologique," vii. 



216 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

late sounds, and therefore the root feeling of primitive 
religion is arrived at through an investigation of ritual. 
When a savage wants a good harvest he does not keep 
" rogation days " with greater zeal but summons certain 
members of his tribe and holds an Intichiuma ceremony 
that the plants and animals by which he lives may 
multiply, or that refreshing showers may fall on the 
kindly fruits of the earth. True, the harvest rites are 
of a rather different character, but the spring ceremonies 
are an example of a visible representation of an intense 
desire. It is his will to live that the Australian utters 
and re-enacts when he repairs to Emily Gap, before the 
totems are plentiful. Likewise, when a group of people 
among the Arunta who have water for their totem sym- 
bolize the gathering of rain-clouds and the other accom- 
paniments of a rising storm, it is not, as Frazer imagines, 1 
to produce rain by imitating it, but simply to utter and 
represent an emotion and longing — to express in actions 
the thought that cannot be adequately described in 
words. It is not denied that such a rite as this contains 
an element of imitation, but only because the savage 
is a man of action who dances out his religion. When 
he wants to bring a thing to pass he does not, in the 
lowest culture, prostrate himself before the tribal All- 
Father, but gathers certain people together to perform 
magico-religious rites and thus express by action their 
inmost wishes and desires. Such ceremonies may be 
described as outward and visible signs of inward emo- 
tions and longings. It is this emotional and representa- 
tive aspect of early ritual — the desire to act discharging 
itself on the symbol that Frazer's theory of imitative 
magic fails to take into account. Therefore ritual is 
not only the outward expression of thought, but also 
the vent of pent up emotions and activity. 2 

1 " Golden Bough," i., p. 261. 

2 Cf. " Threshold of Religion," chap. ii. 



CONCLUSION 217 

Since the savage is essentially a man of action it often 
happens that he acts before he thinks. Such a stage 
of ritual — the product of mere unreflected habit — 
must have preceded the development of ideas concern- 
ing the how and why of what was being done. When 
the activity is of a practical nature the paraphernalia 
accompanying the practices enjoined by custom in 
process of time need explanation and justification ; either 
a myth is invented or the oft repeated refrain quoted : 
" it was so in the Alcheringa." Some mysterious 
authority is needed to account for the time-honoured 
conventions and rigidly-observed rituals, and therefore 
the primitive philosopher sets forth the theory of a 
golden age in which powerful ancestral spirits or High 
Gods roamed the earth, framed the laws, taught men 
the arts of life and the ritual practices to be observed. 
Having accomplished their task they are usually sup- 
posed to have returned to their abode in the skies. 
Thus myths arose as religious stories to explain and 
sanction customs hitherto unexplained. Mythology 
may, therefore, be regarded as the key to the dramatic 
representations of emotions and desires, on which so 
much depends in primitive society. As belief came to 
play a more important part in religion, through the 
development of the human mind, there was a tendency 
to systematize and moralize these stories. Deities are 
assigned special functions, the hierarchy of heaven 
is regulated, and the gods regarded as the rewarders of 
virtue and the punishers of vice. Although they no 
longer make their abode among the dwellers on the 
earth and choose their wives from the daughters of men, 
they are pleased when they hear the bull-roarer, and 
other ceremonies are duly performed, and, in higher 
culture, they are thought to be attentive, when, in 
times of extremity, the human heart cries out in its 
distress : " Save me, O God, for the waters are come 



218 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

in unto my soul." Thus, mythology, in its representa- 
tion of a golden past when gods and spirits lived on the 
earth and organized the social and religious institu- 
tions, is the product of the religious nature of man. 

But there is another way in which legends and myths 
arise. When the men of a tribe return from the chase 
or an avenging expedition they will often dramatically 
represent to the women and children the experiences 
they have encountered. Probably the drama does not 
lose in its original re-enactment. As time goes on 
and the ceremony is represented again and again the 
particular event is forgotten, and myths relating to the 
brave days of old arise as ex post facto explanations of 
the now meaningless commemorative ritual. Like- 
wise, before an important function is entered upon, 
emotion is discharged by anticipatory rites. A pan- 
tomimic rehearsal of that which is likely to take place 
in the chase will be gone through, imaginary game will 
be caught and all the detail of hunting enacted, by 
way of " pre-presentation." It is hardly surprising 
that the savage should read into these anticipatory rites 
a magical efficacy, not because " like produces like," 
but because a ritual that involves a more or less realistic 
reproduction of some practical activity tends to estab- 
lish the ex post facto idea of " sympathetic " causation. 
This, however, is an entirely different thing from saying 
with Frazer that symbolic and sympathetic rites belong 
to an " age of magic." Such a conclusion can only be 
arrived at by extracting the abstract element of imita- 
tiveness, and ignoring the primary function and purpose 
of primitive ritual. As a matter of fact the savage is 
not concerned with how ceremonies " work," all he 
knows is that they do work. In primitive society there 
is no such thing as theology, or thought-out schemes of 
beliefs, but simply absolute faith in the powers and 
efficacy of that which produces or is endowed with mana. 



CONCLUSION 219 

It will be therefore readily seen that to the primitive 
mind there is no clear distinction between magic and 
religion. No doubt there is a nascent consciousness of 
some contrast between the exercise of evil magic which 
tends to be anti-social and those rites which are for the 
betterment of society. Thus, Van Gennep 1 treats the 
magico-religious as an indivisible whole, distinguishing 
only between the theoretical and the practical aspect of 
early cult, assigning the term " religion " to the former, 
and " magic " to the latter. Hartland 2 thinks that 
magic and religion have a common root in orenda or 
mana, the mystic influence that fills certain sacred 
things. In developing his argument he is inclined to 
follow Frazer in attributing to the constraining power 
of sacrifice and prayer a magical significance. 3 

Since the savage is essentially a " ritualist " it would 
avoid much confusion of terms if ritual in association 
with mana were made the basis of primitive magico- 
religious cult. As Dr. Marett has pointed out, 4 it 
would be as easy to speak of hunting or agricultural 
ritual as of productive magic, and obviate the diffi- 
culties arising from a stratigraphical method of investi- 
gating magico-religious phenomena. The conceptions of 
mana and of ritualistic control are closely associated. 
Savage religion chiefly consists of the system of rites 
resorted to by the community for self-preservation 
against real and imaginary dangers. Now the imper- 
sonal and quasi-mechanical force that imputes to ritual 
a more or less automatic efficacy is mana. It is this 
mystic power that makes the ceremonies " work," either 
socially or anti-socially, for it should be remembered that 
what are beneficent rites to one person or tribe may be 

1 " Les Rites de passage." 

2 " Ritual and Belief," p. 66. 

3 Op. cit., p. 87. 

4 "Encycl, Rel. and Ethics," art. " Magic." 






220 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

regarded as nothing short of black magic by another. 
Even the power of Daramulun may be used by the 
medicine-man against an enemy. 1 There is, therefore, 
some foundation for the supposition that public rites 
tend to become good and licit, and private rites become 
bad and illicit. 2 A man has no right, according to 
Robertson Smith, to enter into private relations with 
supernatural powers that might help him at the expense 
of the community to which he belongs. In his relations 
to the unseen he is bound to think and act with and for 
the community, and not for himself alone. But ritual- 
forms for securing personal ends are certainly allowable 
and not anti-social, as has been shown in the first part 
of this work. It is only when private enterprise tends 
in the direction of individual greed or spite, that it 
becomes anti-social and illicit. It is magic rather than 
private rites that is the enemy of society as well as of 
organized cult, being maleficent and devoid of organiza- 
tion^ In process of time religion depends less and less 
on ritual efficacy as the ethical conception of the God- 
head becomes more and more manifest. But in primi- 
tive cult it is mana acting through ritual that is at the 
back of all magico-religious wonder-working, be it for 
weel or be it for woe. Here, then, as Dr. Marett has 
shown, is the meeting point of magic and religion. In it 
is expressed magico-religious value as realized in and 
through ritual. The conscious design in a given rate 
may not be discernible but because it sets free mana 
it works, and that is all that matters to the savage. 
Thus, the ideas of mana and of ritualistic control go 
together— the former calling forth the latter— since 
both are directly concerned with mystic power associ- 
ated with the sacred. It is the mana residing in, and 
proceeding from, the material object that constitutes 
the whole basis of magico-religious cult. 

1 Howitt, pp. 543, 382. 2 " Religion of Semites," p. 263 f. 



CONCLUSION 221 

To say with Tylor that a " belief in spiritual beings " 
constitutes the minimum definition of religion is to for- 
get that the outlook of primitive man is towards the 
sacred rather than in the direction of the spiritual. For, 
as the French sociologists have pointed out, primitive 
man is incapable of forming definite hypotheses concern- 
ing the soul, and to explain particular phenomena. 
Therefore a vaguer conception of a mystic force ani- 
mating certain things that to the modern man would 
appear as inanimate is needed to express the primitive 
attitude of mind. The term animatism is now gener- 
ally used to describe such " pre-animistic " religion. 

Frazer thinks that when men found they could not 
affect nature by magic, and yet that storms came, the 
sun rose, and the rain fell they concluded that Beings 
stronger than themselves existed, who " made the 
stormy wind to blow, the lightning to flash, and the 
thunder to roll ; who had laid the foundations of the 
solid earth and set bounds to the restless sea that it 
might not pass." Thus, on this hypothesis, religion is 
" a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to 
man which are believed to direct and control the course 
of nature and of human life." x But this view does not 
take into account the fact that much that can justly be 
called religion is not propitiation, and that some objects 
recognized by religion are neither equal or inferior to 
man. 

Herbert Spencer and Grant Allen imagine that all 
religion arose from the worship of dead ancestors, and 
thus follow Euhemeros, a Sicilian living in the latter 
part of the fourth century B.C., who formulated a theory 
of origins after extensive travels to great places of 
worship, in which he set forth the belief that all gods 
were deified men. In the new edition of the " Golden 
Bough," Frazer inclines to this interpretation of the 
1 " Golden Bough," iii., Pt. I., p. 222. 



222 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

beginning of gods, but, though there may be an element 
of truth in the hypothesis, the High Gods of low races 
are not mere ghosts carried to the highest power, as 
Herbert Spencer imagines. To rest all rites and beliefs 
on the precarious foundation of passing fancy and in- 
advertence, is surely contrary to all known laws govern- 
ing the mind of man. Many human traits and attri- 
butes naturally gather round a mythological being, 
especially in primitive states of culture. Thus, Odin's 
gods drink beer because all Norsemen heroes drank beer, 
and Balder was burnt on his ship because a great Norse 
hero was always burnt on his viking-ship, but it does not 
follow in consequence that either were originally his- 
toric personages elevated to the divine rank by posterity. 
It is beyond question that ancestor- worship is very 
widely distributed over a large part, of the uncivilized 
world, but, at the same time, it is not a universal aspect 
of primitive cult. It is not found in Australia, where 
the gods are simply Supreme Beings who have never 
died ; therefore there is no ground for regarding it, at 
least in this region, as the first form of religion and the 
source of theistic conceptions. Among nearly all races, 
even where the worship of ancestors and deified human 
beings exists, there is also a belief in High Gods who 
have never been men and have never died. In process 
of time mythology has tended to overgrow and choke 
the original conception of a Creator who dwells in the 
sky, remote and in need of nothing that man can give. 
In some cases there is a distinct line of demarcation 
drawn between those who are properly designated gods, 
on the one hand, and the spirits of the dead, on the other, 
to whom some kind of worship is offered. In China only 
the Emperor is now allowed to worship the Supreme 
Ruler at the Altar of Heaven, and that only once in the 
year — 'the night of the winter solstice — but the members 
of every family daily pay homage to their ancestors. 



CONCLUSION 223 

Ancestor-worship therefore seems to be a later concep- 
tion than that of gods proper, who never were men 
and have never died. Consequently it may be con- 
cluded that although it is probable that the ghosts of 
great chiefs, " the Caesars and Napoleons, the Charle- 
magnes and Timurs of savage empires," were often 
propitiated and worshipped, yet there is no evidence to 
suggest that this practice constitutes the earliest phase 
of a belief in gods and spiritual beings. Had theistic 
ideas arisen in this way it is inconceivable that a 
broad distinction should be made in primitive cult 
between gods and the spirits of dead men. 

M. Durkheim put forth the following definition of 
religion in " L'Annee Sociologique," x which he has 
subsequently modified in his book, " Les Formes Ele- 
ment aires de la Vie Religieuse " 2 : " Les phenomenes 
dits religieux consistent en croyances obligatoires con- 
nexes de pratiques definies qui se rapportent a des 
objets donnes dans ces croyances." ("The pheno- 
mena which we call religious are those which consist in 
obligatory beliefs connected with definite practices 
relating to objects given in these beliefs.") In order 
to make this definition less " formal " and more regard- 
ful of the " contents of the religious representations " 
the later hypothesis is stated thus : "A religion is a 
unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred 
things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden — 
beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral 
community called a Church, all those who adhere to 
them." M. Durkheim thereby recognizes beliefs and 
practices as the two distinct and essential aspects of 
religious phenomena. In both cases, however, it is 
only those beliefs and practices which are obligatory 
that may be termed religious. Again, the definition 
is further narrowed by including only those obligatory 
1 II., p. 1 ff. * P. 47. 



224 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

practices which presuppose obligatory beliefs, and vice 
versa. But, in primitive cult all that is required is 
that the ceremonies be properly performed, without 
regard to any particular explanation of the rites. It 
is the ritual not the belief that matters. It can hardly 
be said that any particular beliefs are obligatory in 
connexion with the Intichiuma rites in Central Australia. 
The essential thing is that the totemic ceremonies be 
duly performed, and so with most primitive ritual. 
Beliefs grow up and are read into certain acts but they 
are seldom annexed till later, since, in really primitive 
cult, doctrine takes quite a minor place. Again, we 
repeat, the savage is a man of action but not of carefully 
thought out beliefs and theories. A ceremonialist he 
is, a dogmatic theologian he is not. The notion, there- 
fore, of the primitive philosopher communing alone 
with the natural and spiritual world, evolving theo- 
logical dogmas out of his inner consciousness, has to be 
seriously modified, when savage mythology is considered 
in relation to ritual acts. To follow Durkheim it would 
be necessary to exclude from religion all the obligatory 
practices unconnected with obligatory beliefs, and there- 
by eliminate the greater part of primitive cult. 

Something at once vaguer and wider, resembling 
more the conception of mana, is needed to represent 
primitive or rudimentary religion in its entirety. The 
only term that covers the whole of religious phenomena 
is the comprehensive expression Upa. or sacra, suggested 
by Mr. Crawley 1 and since adopted by Dr. Marett and 
other anthropologists. The conception of the " sacred " 
will be found to cover the whole body of magico-religious 
beliefs and practices, and, therefore, may be taken as a 
" minimum definition." Any startling manifestation 
of nature, a curiously shaped rock, animals of uncanny 
appearance, a dead body, a cloud-crowned mountain, 
1 " Tree of Life," p. 209. 



CONCLUSION 225 

a rushing stream, is regarded as sacred because it is 
associated with man, and, in consequence, rites and 
tabus grow up around it. Of course, the animate is 
sacred, but so are many things that are not the abode 
of a " spiritual being." Unusual manifestations are 
regarded as having about them a mysterious energy 
that is not human, for it forms no part of the equipment 
of the ordinary individual. It may be called "god" 
as it is by the people of Madagascar. 1 So, too, the 
Masai, and Akikuyu conception of deity is equally 
vague. Anything that is to them incomprehensible or 
peculiar is ngai (god), 2 just as among the Algonquin it 
is manitou, or orenda to the Iroquoian. Not dissimiliar 
is the conception of mulungu among the Yaos, east of 
Lake Nyassa. This term signifies the " Great One " 
and is equivalent to god, although, to the native mind 
it does not convey the notion of personality. It rather 
denotes an inherent supernatural energy associated 
with mysterious objects. It is the agent of wonder in 
the rainbow, and it sums up at once the Creative energy 
which made the earth and animals and man, together 
with the powers which operate in human life. Offerings 
of food are placed at the foot of a tree on certain occa- 
sions. It is " for Mulungu " ; sometimes dimly con- 
ceived as a spirit within ; sometimes regarded as a 
universal agency in nature and affairs, impalpable, 
impersonal ; sometimes rising into distinctness as God. 3 
In Morocco the Arabs designate the mystic force con- 
nected with " holy " people and places as baraka.* 
Although this term is used to describe the various 
attributes of holiness it is not confined to this quality. 

1 Ellis, " History of Madagascar," i., p. 391 f. ; cf. " Threshold 
of Religion," p. 11. 

2 Thomson, " Masailand," p. 445 ; Routledge, " With a Pre- 
historic People," p. 357. 

3 Estlin Carpenter, " Comparative Religion," p. 82. 

4 Westermarck, " Essays to Tylor," p. 368. 



226 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

A bride, for instance, is dangerous because she is full 
of baraka, and rain is made to fall in times of drought 
by its aid. 1 

The conception of mana is, therefore, by no means 
confined to Melanesia. It is rather a world-wide aspect 
of primitive cult. Around it gathers all the fundamental 
principles of savage religion. In short, it is hardly too 
much to say that it covers the whole of magico-religious 
phenomena. It is sufficiently vague to describe those 
early religious ideas before the conception of personality 
enters into the savage consciousness, and, at the same 
time, it is capable of existing in combination with a 
doctrine of spirits, souls, ghosts and authropomorphic 
beings. It is because of its comprehensiveness that the 
" ritual-tabu-mana " formula of the sacred is here 
put forth as a minimum definition of religion. 

That this attitude of mind, dictated by awe of the 
mysterious — called by Dr. Marett animatism, 2 is psycho- 
logically an earlier phase than animism is shown in the 
case of the Trojan offerings to the sacred river, nar- 
rated in Homer. Originally the Trojans regarded the 
river as containing mana, and, in consequence, they 
sacrificed a bull to the stream. The animal was thrown 
into the water whole and entire. In later times, when 
they had reached the animistic stage, an altar was 
erected by the side of the river on which a bull was 
offered, the belief being that the spirit in the water came 
out and consumed the essence of the sacrifice. 

But here again, care must be taken to avoid assum- 
ing a stratigraphical evolution from animatism to 
animism. As a matter of fact animatism, animism, 
and anthropomorphism constantly exist side by side 
in primitive cult, and, therefore, they may presumably 
be supposed to have arisen simultaneously as an ex- 

1 Westermarck, " Marriage Ceremonies in Morocco," p. 360. 
a " Threshold of Religion," pp. 1-28. 



CONCLUSION 227 

planation of the several aspects of the sacred. Anima- 
tism may have originally been applied to non-human 
objects, whereas animism may have arisen by way of 
explanation of such phenomena as dreams, sickness, 
death, trance, hallucinations, reflections, shadows, etc. 
On the other hand, anthropomorphism did not evolve 
out of animistic conceptions. In Australia All-Fathers 
are neither animistic nor non-animistic in character, since 
they are conceived of as magnified non-natural men, 
often dwelling in the sky — super-men who have never 
died. The origin of these truly religious ideas may 
reasonably be sought in that higher or spiritual nature 
which, it appears, man possessed from the earliest days 
of his existence. 

It is now placed beyond dispute that a religious con- 
sciousness is not the peculiar and special equipment of 
any one faith, or of a chosen people. The history of 
religion is an exemplification of the great truth that 
" God is not far from each one of us." It is the record 
of a universal search after God by every nation of men, 
" if haply they might feel after Him and find Him." 
In the foregoing pages the lowest forms of magi co-re- 
ligious ritual and belief actually adhered to by existing 
primitive people have been investigated, in the hope that 
some light may be thrown on the cult of primeval man. 
Of course, it is possible that modern savages do not 
reveal with entire accuracy or complete fulness the 
religion of our prehistoric forefathers. But making 
allowance for any discrepancies in this direction there 
can be little doubt that anthropology has succeeded in 
giving a fairly accurate picture of rudimenary religion. 
The few facts that have been brought to light by 
archaeologists support in a very remarkable manner the 
conclusions of anthropologists regarding primitive cult. 

There can be little doubt that man in a hunting stage 
of culture views life from a similar standpoint at what- 



228 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

ever period of time he may happen to inhabit the globe. 
He is a man of action whose principal function is to 
secure the necessities of life. The category of cause 
and effect is unknown to him. For him everything 
that happens is due to a mystic power, an unseen influ- 
ence — part of the great Unknown, the mysterious. 
Not being a philosopher or theologian he does not stop 
to ask, " Whence is this curious force, how does this 
awe-inspiring object work ? " All he knows or cares 
is that it contains mana and therefore behaves thus. 
This is his fundamental assumption. Cause and effect, 
and even agent and act, are not clearly differentiated at 
this stage of culture. Effect is the thing that really 
matters to primitive man, cause being nothing more 
than an unknown and therefore a mysterious force 
acting through certain natural or supernatural objects. 
It is highly improbable, as has been shown, that in the 
most primitive states of culture man attributes all 
mana to spiritual agencies. Awe of a great super- 
natural power pervading nature, and the search for the 
Unknown is everywhere the characteristic of the most 
primitive religious consciousness. It, therefore, seems 
reasonable to suppose that as long as primeval man was 
only concerned with non-human objects — rocks, stones, 
trees, clouds, sun, etc. — the generic term mana was 
sufficient to explain the power that caused such objects 
to behave mysteriously. But, if he could not identify 
the unknown power with any material object, then he 
was driven to the belief in spiritual beings by way of 
explanation of such awe-inspiring phenomena as dreams, 
trances, death, shadow, etc. Again, if he could not 
associate the unknown power with any material or 
spiritual force, then he resorted to a belief in an All- 
Father who lived in the sky, remote from the world he 
created, and full of knowledge and power. Such a being 
is Baiame of the Kamilaroi, Daramulun of the Yuin, 



CONCLUSION 229 

Cagn of the Bushmen, and the Hawaiian Creators, Kami 
and Tangaloa. Under the same category must be 
placed Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, unless it can 
be proved that He was originally a war or storm god. 
Thus, began the religious consciousness of the human 
organism. 

Does this imply a primitive revelation ? Did God, 
in the beginning, give to man his religion ; that is to 
say, not only religious consciousness, but a certain 
amount of religious knowledge, so that he set out on 
his long journey towards civilization with a supply of 
religious conceptions not devised and elaborated by 
his own efforts ? Such a theory, though commonly 
held a few years ago, has now been abandoned, not only 
by anthropologists but also by most theologians. Enough 
has been recorded in the foregoing pages to show that 
the religion of primitive man is not (and apparently 
that of primeval man was not) of the lofty and pure 
nature which befits a direct revelation from the Deity. 
Furthermore, such an assumption implies a condition 
of human life far above the culture of " ancient hunters." 
Or again, if it be supposed that modern savages are 
degenerates, and, therefore, have lost the pure religion 
once revealed, it can only be explained on the sup- 
position that mankind was not sufficiently developed 
to retain a pure religion, a conclusion that takes from 
the omniscience of the Deity. The theory of a primitive 
revelation may therefore be laid aside at once as 
untenable, and religion, like civilization, regarded 
as a product of evolution, or as a search after the Un- 
known and the Infinite. 

As soon as human consciousness appeared this search 
after a higher power must have begun. A mystic force 
seemed to pervade nature and men alike, and therefore 
man was driven to believe in some supernatural power 
that had to do with both the external world and his 



230 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

inner consciousness. In the earliest stages of culture 
these two aspects are closely related. True, the High God 
who answers to his spiritual requirements is not wor- 
shipped by offerings, or addressed in prayer. It is the 
totems and the lower spiritual beings, together with other 
objects containing mana, who are invoked and ap- 
proached by ritual observances. But why ? Simply 
because a High God is so high that he is not only in need 
of nothing that man can give, but is also unapproach- 
able. Now it is the same attitude of mind that, on the 
one hand, prompts the savage to refrain from paying 
worship to the All-Father, and, on the other, to sur- 
round personal powers with rites and tabus. Both 
alike are regarded with awe, an emotion quite distin- 
guishable from fear. Evil spirits are feared, and there- 
fore they are avoided or expelled ; but sacred objects 
endowed with mana are regarded with reverential awe 
that implies confidence and trust. In times of drought 
it is concluded that the rain-god is angry because some 
tabu has been broken or similar offence committed by a 
member of the tribe, and therefore the deity has with- 
held the fructifying showers. Prayers and sacrifices 
are consequently offered in order that reconciliation 
may be made. In other words, a relationship is sup- 
posed to exist between the supernatural world and 
mankind, and this relationship is paternal. 

Again, it is further evident that the first yearnings of 
man, in all ages of culture, is to get into touch with the 
great Unknown that inspires him with such reverence 
and awe. He realizes in a dim sort of way that God — 
considered as a mystical force — is continually about 
his path ; that there is a supernatural power which 
both has sympathy with his desires and power to bring 
the same to good effect. It was thus a sense of need 
that probably first caused a human being to hold inter- 
course with a higher power. Accordingly, it is in pro- 



CONCLUSION 231 

ductive ceremonies that the inmost desire of the heart 
of primitive man is made manifest. It is his will to 
live, not merely in the natural sense, but also in the 
higher and fuller spiritual meaning of existence, that 
he utters and represents when he holds Intichiuma 
ceremonies as soon as the season of fertility approaches 
to make the totems — the source of life — increase, and 
when he later actually imbibes the life that to him is 
life indeed. 

There is, on the religious side of primitive cult, a 
unifying principle behind all magico-religious rites. The 
history of the religious development of the human race 
seems to present, to a large extent, the same general 
features everywhere. M. Levy Bruhl has yet to prove 
that the minds of primitive men work very differently 
from ours, 1 and that les societes infer ieures are in a pre- 
logical stage of mentality — a result reached by suppos- 
ing that " the law of participation " is foreign to civilized 
thought. In reality, in all stages of culture, both the 
" Law of Contradiction " and the " Law of Participa- 
tion " enter into man's mental development. The only 
change that has taken place is that whereas primitive 
man believes himself to be not merely " one flesh " with 
his totem but actually the sacred animal itself — an emu 
or witchetty grub man is an emu or witchetty grub — 
his civilized successor expressed the same idea in ab- 
stract. Thus, in the Christian religion, the primitive 
conception of a participation of natures finds its counter- 
part in the mystic sacramental union which exists 
between our Lord and the faithful. It is, in fact, not 
difficult to find parallels in primitive cult for all the 
fundamental conceptions of Christianity which shows 
that there is no justification for a sharp contrast such 
as M. Levy Bruhl suggests, between a " pre-logical " 
age, in which the Law of Participation takes the place 

1 Cf. " Les Fonctions Mentales dans les Societes Inferieures." 



232 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

of the Law of Contradiction, the supposed special 
feature of later mental developments. 

Putting aside the theory of a pre-logical mentality 
as untenable, religion may be regarded as a continuous 
process of evolution developing from crude and elemen- 
tary practices and beliefs, but always showing a uni- 
formity of mental process, differing merely in degree. 
Even in the lowest and earliest stages of this upward 
movement the presence of an inspiring and controlling 
idea can be discerned — an idea not always realized by 
the men of the time. In the lowest culture religion 
consists in the relation of man to the sacred. In all 
the crises of his life primitive man seeks to bring himself 
into contact with the supernatural. From his entry 
into the world to his departure from it, each individual 
passes at certain points in his career out of one condition 
into another, and the transition is always the occasion 
of what M. Van Gennep describes as a " rite de passage." 
Birth, the attainment of puberty, marriage, death are 
great personal events associated with the mysteries of 
life, and therefore at these times the individual is 
especially exposed to the mystic and dangerous sacred 
forces with which he is surrounded. Before birth various 
preliminary rites are often performed to make the child 
a " living soul '■ by releasing the spirit child from its 
abode in the nanda tree or sacred spot at which the 
mother first became conscious of pregnancy. Thus, a 
newly born infant is regarded as being in fullest contact 
with the sacred world, and being in such a highly danger- 
ous condition, he is subject to attacks from malignant 
influences, from which he must be guarded by rites. In 
order to bring him under " divine " care he undergoes 
ceremonial ablutions, etc., to wash away the evil inherent 
in human nature, and admit him to the society of man- 
kind. Thus, the Aztec ritual, already explained, refers 
to water as a regenerating agent, the priest concluding 



CONCLUSION 233 

the rite by saying : " Now he liveth anew and is born 
anew, now he is purified and cleansed, now our Mother 
the water again bringeth him into the world." Name- 
giving ceremonies, which are not infrequently associated 
with supernatural guardian powers, chosen to watch 
over the infant, or with the spirits of ancestors, follow 
the purificatory rites. 

At the age of puberty boys are compelled to pass 
through a series of initiation ceremonies, whereby they are 
admitted into the privileges of manhood, and instructed 
in the tribal mysteries, and thus again brought into 
relation with the sacred, and often, as, for instance, 
among the South-Eastern tribes of Australia, into inter- 
course with the All-Father who presides over the rites. 
The ceremonies involve seclusion from the world, and 
especially from the society of women, together with 
severe tests of endurance — knocking out of teeth, cir- 
cumcision, tattooing, scarification, fasts, and lonely 
vigils in the bush. All this is calculated to produce 
nervous excitement, and bring about a " new birth " ; 
the former things are passed away, and the new-born 
man enters on a new life. This aspect of initiation is 
clearly shown in the Akikuyu rites. Just before cir- 
cumcision the mother stands up with the boy at her 
feet ; she pretends to go through all the labour pains, 
and the boy on being reborn cries like a babe and is 
washed. 1 Sometimes the novice dies to rise again. 
Among the tribes of South-East Australia an old man 
is laid in a grave, covered up with earth and bushes, 
and affects a resurrection before the eyes of the novices 
standing round the grave. The new name given, the 
new dress worn, the new ceremonies and the new lan- 
guage taught, all suggest a new birth to a new life. 
In totemic societies the novice is often reborn as the 
totem. Thus, when a man wants to become a bear 
1 Frazer, " Totemism and Exogamy," i., p. 228. 



234 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

among the Carrier Indians he retires to the woods for a 
few days. At length he returns, and dances a bear 
dance with the rest of the totem, as an initiated bear, 
his disappearance and reappearance acting as outward 
signs of death and resurrection. 1 

In Polynesia, West Africa, etc., secret societies were 
gradually formed among the initiates, in which the 
members often entered into sacramental relations with 
the deity, after preliminary purificatory ceremonies. 
Thus, in the semi-Hellenic mysteries of the Attis-Cybele 
the fusion of the mortal with the divinity was brought 
about by a blood-ritual and a sacramental meal of 
bread and wine eaten by the Attis-votary as the very 
substance of his divinity. In the mysteries of Isis, after 
lustrations and priestly declarations of absolution, the 
candidates underwent a new birth and were assured of 
a happy life beyond the grave. The novices in the 
Mithraic initiation ceremonies passed through seven 
stages, till, ceremonially cleansed from all sin, they 
attained a sacramental rebirth which endured through 
all eternity. Such rites as these may not unreasonably 
be described as anticipations of the great Christian 
Mystery whereby the faithful partake of eternal life. 

The rites of birth, initiation, marriage and death, 
which appear on the surface to have little in common, 
are to the primitive mind, remarkably similar. All 
constitute a " rite de passage," a passing from one state 
to another. In every rite there are two aspects — the 
putting off of the old man, and the putting on of the 
new. This means establishing a definite relationship 
with the sacred, so that in the intervening period, or 
novitiate, the candidate is rendered tabu. Now these 
rites de passage constitute a means whereby mankind 
may come into closer union with the supernatural. Re- 
birth is the re-entering into more intimate relations 
1 " Golden Bough," Pt. Ill, p. 438. 



CONCLUSION 235 

with the sacred. As man's ethical knowledge increases 
he realizes that sin separates him from the divine, and 
therefore he resorts to ceremonial ablutions that he 
may " put off the old man which is corrupt according 
to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man which, 
after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." 

The religion of the savage is thus the means whereby 
he seeks to establish a relationship between himself 
and the sacred. It is a mode of activity, a routine of 
worship, but behind the ritual acts, which are its out- 
ward and visible signs, lie certain thoughts and feelings, 
often dim, indistinct, and obscure. He does not, it is 
true, ask the questions " how " and " why," but never- 
theless the line of his action is determined, in part at 
least, by the ideas and expectations which have slowly 
emerged out of his early search for God. " The pre- 
Christian religions were the age-long prayer. The 
Incarnation was the answer." 1 

The study of comparative religion has clearly shown 
the evolutionary process which led up to the idea of 
Christianity as God's reply to the yearnings of men's 
hearts in all ages — the completion of the religious educa- 
tion of the human race — is not restricted in its working 
to the Old Testament, but that behind the " religion of 
the Semites " is a very long history going right back to 
primeval times. In the words of Robertson Smith : 
" to understand the ways of God with man, and the whole 
meaning of His plan of salvation, it is necessary to go 
back and see His work in its beginnings, examining the 
rudimentary stages of the process of revelation." 2 

To maintain a full and complete revelation at a given 
moment of time in face of the overwhelming evidence of 
a " progressive revelation " is to bring Christian theology 
into disrepute in the eyes of well-informed people, and 

1 Illingworth in " Lux Mundi," p. 208. 

2 " The Old Testament in the Jewish Church," p. 192. 



236 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

to go contrary to the teaching of the New Testament 
writers and of the early Fathers of the Church. St. Paul, 
in his speech at Areopagus, acknowledges that some of 
his hearers worship the true God (Acts xvii. 23: o ovv 
dyvovvres cw-cySare) though styling Him as the Un- 
known Deity. Again, St. Peter maintains that God 
is " no respecter of persons : but in every nation he that 
feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable 
to Him. 1 Likewise, the author of the Epistle to the 
Hebrews shows that God of old spoke " by divers por- 
tions and in divers manners " to the " Fathers " — an 
expression that may equally be extended to others besides 
the ancestors of Israel, since the religious faculty is not 
confined to one race. There is in every soul a restless- 
ness that can never be satisfied till it finds rest in its 
Creator, and, therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that 
the Spirit of God was working and revealing Himself 
in such divers ways as the very limited capacity of 
primitive man was able to comprehend, from the be- 
ginning. Thus, Dr. Farnell is led to say " that all 
through the present societies of savage men there pre- 
vails an extraordinary uniformity, in spite of much local 
variation, in ritual and mythology, a uniformity so 
striking as to suggest belief in an ultimately identical 
tradition, or, perhaps, more reasonably, the psychologic 
theory that the human brain-cell in different races at 
the same stage of development responds with the same 
religious speech or the same religious act to the same 
stimuli supplied by its environment." 2 To those who 
acknowledge the existence of Divine Personality this 
original tradition or stimulus supplied by environment 
may reasonably be regarded as the result of Divine 
operation on the primeval mind. This does not imply 
a belief in a primitive revelation of the unity andsuprem- 

1 Acts x. 34, 35. 

2 "Evolution of Religion," p. 9. 



CONCLUSION 237 

acy of God to a chosen race, but in a universal and pro- 
gressive unfolding of the Divine purpose precept upon 
precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little, till, 
in the fullness of time, the mind of man was ready for 
the supreme and final revelation in Christ, completing 
and superseding all partial revelations, adapted to meet 
and fulfil every reaching upwards to the truth and light 
found among the dim and shadowy rites and beliefs of 
primitive cult. 

There is nothing unscientific in this view, that the 
striving of man after union with his Maker was guided 
by God through a partial and progressive revelation to 
meet the great persistent universal cry of the human 
heart, till the goal was reached in Christianity — the 
highest development of the religious faculty. The 
Christian religion, like other institutions and customs, 
is a product of evolution ; but, let it be remembered 
(to quote Dr. Illingworth) that " evolution is merely a 
method, and originates and can originate nothing. 
Whatever we find existing at the end of an evolutionary 
process must have existed potentially, that is to say, in 
germ, at its beginning. The term evolution cannot be 
utilized like the handkerchief of a conjurer, under the 
cover of which to substitute for one object another that 
is totally different in kind." 1 Now, if Christianity is 
the height and crown of religious evolution supplying 
the entire need of the religious faculty — the final 
revelation of God to man — primitive ritual and belief 
must contain the germ of Christian potentiality. 

The essence of the religion of Jesus Christ is union 
with God — the actualization of man's attempts to find 
out the nature of God, His abode, and the manner in 
which He may be reached, as the result of the develop- 
ment of the religious consciousness, nourished and guided 
by the Almighty Himself. Since the essential aspect of 
1 "The Doctrine of the Trinity," pp. 4,5. 



238 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

primitive religion is the relation of man to the sacred, 
the rites and beliefs that constitute his cult may be 
described as movements towards an imperfect and im- 
personal conception of the Deity. Thus, when the 
Australian Black-Fellow assumes a mystic union to 
exist between himself and the natural world he is simply 
expressing his inward yearning for union with a Divine 
Power. Likewise, it has been shown that the rites de 
passage constitute a means whereby mankind may come 
into closer union with the sacred by re-birth. Or, 
again, the universal doctrine of mana, attaching itself 
to awe-inspiring objects, suggests a world-wide tendency 
among primitive people to seek union with a higher power. 
It is, however, in the various conceptions of sacrifice 
that the desire for union with the deity is most clearly 
seen. Sometimes in the offering of cereal oblations and 
other gifts to the god or his equivalent, sometimes as a 
sacramental meal or a covenant in blood, the soul reaches 
out towards, and makes itself part of the Divine Nature. 
If man regards the Deity merely as a mysterious imper- 
sonal Force associated with peculiar objects, he will 
simply offer gifts. If he believes he owes his origin 
to the animal or plant whose name he bears, he will 
endeavour to come into communion with his totem by 
assimilating the flesh and blood of the sacrosanct animal. 
If he regards the gods as members of his tribe or very 
present helps in trouble, he will slay a victim in their 
honour and partake of it with them. When he reaches 
the stage of realizing that the gods live in the sky he 
burns his sacrifice on the altar that it may ascend as a 
sweet smelling odour to the deity. When he feels that 
union with his god is destroyed by his shortcomings, he 
offers, by way of reparation, a sin-offering, and even 
bathes himself in the blood of the victim as a token of 
penitence. He drinks it to become partaker of the 
divine life, or reverently eats cakes in which the blood 



CONCLUSION 239 

of a victim is mixed with the dough. Thus from simple 
and very primitive rites, often having for their purpose, 
at least in part, the supply of the food that is necessary 
for the body, the sacramental system, whereby the soul 
is fed and nourished, has, in the process time, been 
evolved. In these and numerous other ways, such as 
mythological stories and the accompanying rites, man 
tries to satisfy the universal craving for union with his 
Maker, by getting into contact with the sacred, and 
thereby becoming full of sacredness, till, in the fullness 
of time, the Incarnation and the extension of its benefits 
in the sacramental system of the Christian Church 
fulfilled " the dumb, dim, expectations of mankind." 

A study of primitive ritual and belief therefore re- 
veals, among other things, a permanent element of 
truth — a progressive revelation. It shows how God, 
in His infinite wisdom, has led the human race onwards, 
not only in civilization, but also in a knowledge of Him- 
self, from very lowly ideas of deity, often indistinguish- 
able from mana, to a doctrine which the Incarnate Son 
could claim as His own, and re-enforce with Divine 
authority ; from very crude and imperfect notions 
of holiness, to a type of character which is not essentially 
changed but only invested with supreme lustre and 
power in the sinless holiness of Jesus Christ ; from very 
crude tribal hopes and aspirations to the realization of 
the perfect union with God established through the 
" tabernacling " of the Divine Logos among men in His 
Church, which is His Body. In the catholic creeds of 
Christianity the vital truths of all religions and magico- 
religious cults find a place. Thus, in the providence of 
God, the world was gradually prepared to receive the 
final revelation, when, in the fullness of time, the religious 
education of the more progressive races of mankind was 
sufficiently advanced to appreciate all that is implied 
in the Incarnation of the Son of God. 



INDEX 



Ainu, the bear ceremony, 136 Chapelle-aux-Saints, 8$ 



Alcheringa, 217 

ancestors, 1 66 ff, 188, 197 
All-Fathers, 185-213, 222, 228, 

230 
origin of, 207 f. 
Altjira Mara, 197 f. 
Animatism, 221, 226 
Animism, 187, 221, 226 
Arunta, 9 ff, 27 ff., 56 ff., 

75, 94, 144, 166 ff., 197 f. 
A tna-ariltha-kuma ceremony, 

58, 169, 171 
Atnatu, 188 
Atninga, 107 f 
Australians, 3 ff., 214 (See 

under various tribes) 
Aztecs, 133 f. 



Baiame, 149, 1 91-196 
Bantu, 112 

Birth ceremonies, 7 ff., 232 f. 
Blood ceremonies, 125 f. 

covenant, 128 f. 
Body and soul, 81 
Bruhl, L6vy, 231 
Bull-roarer, 189, 207 f. 
Bunjil, 173, 175, 190 
Burial rites : 

Arunta, 75 ff 

Bret ceremony, 74 

Dieri, 72 

Kiitish, 78 f. 

Kurnai, 73 

Southern tribes, 75 

Warramunga, 76 

Wotjobaluk, 74 
Bushmen paintings, 93 



Childbirth, 9 f. 
Christ, 121, 237, 239 
Christianity, 142, 235 f. 
Church, 41, 69, 142, 239 
Churinga, 9f. } 34 
Circumcision, 42-47, 168 

Arunta, 28, 45 f. 

Hebrews, 43 ff. 
Codrington, 204 
Communion, 88, 118, 128, 138, 

139 ff., 237 ff. 
Corroborrees, 175 
Couvade, 8 
Cremation, 85 

Dances, 175 

Daramulun, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 

196!, 220 
Dead, communion with, 88 f. 
Death-bone, 151, 152 
Death, Evil magic, 80 

life after, 81 

origin of, 1 76 f . 

tabus regarding, 71 f. 
Deluge myths, 152 ff., I76ff. 
Dieri, 50, 104 
Divination, i56ff. 
Durkheim, 131, 223 

Eleusinian Mysteries, 137, 140 
Engwura ceremony, 3 1 ff . 
Euhemeros, 221 
Eucharist, 121, 138, 239 

Farnell, 134, 137 ff., 140, 236 
Fire, mythical origin of, 178 f. 
Food quest, 91 ff. 



16 



241 



242 PRIMITIVE RITUAL AND BELIEF 

Frazer, Sir J. G., i f., 5, 37, 
45, 104, in, 121, 125 f„ 
137. I38f., 221 



Gennep, A. Van, 219, 232 
Gestures, 175, 215! 
Gift theory of sacrifice, 116 
Greek mythology, 155 f., 165 
sacrificial rites, 137, 140, 143 

Hartland, S., 87, 219 
Howitt, Dr. A. W., 149, 171, 

188, 201 f. 
Huxley, 4, 5, 183 

Immortality in prehistoric 

cult, 82 ff. 
Incarnation, The, 141 ft"., 235, 

239 
Infanticide, 10 
Initiation ceremonies, 21-42, 

233 
of girls, 35 ft. 
origin and purpose of, 36 ft., 

46 f 
Intichiuma rites, 94 ft., 122 ft. , 

200 f. 

Jevons, Dr. F. B., ugf ., 137, 
14^, 197 

Kaitish, 57, 78 f., 101, 127, 147, 

170, 188 f. 
Kauaua, 3a 

Lang, Andrew, 174, 187, 193, 

207 
Lartna ceremony, 28 ft., 168 f. 
" Leverite," The, 79 
Love-charms, 57 
Lustrations, 13, 61 

Magic, 144ft., -18 ft. 

curing by, 150 f. 

and religion 154, 219 ft. 



Malinowski, 49 f . 

Mana, 155, 219 ft., 225 ft., 228 

Marett, Dr. R. R., 155, 159, 

193, 207 
Marriage : 

in Christian Church, 67 ft-, 

communal, 53 ft. 

definition of, 49 

by Magic, 57 f. 

natural relationship, 66 f. 

origin and significance of, 
48 f. 

payments, 59 

purification, 61 f. 

ritc-de-passage, 62 

rites among the Arunta, 56 f. 

symbolic rites, 59 f. 
Medicine Men, 144-150; mak- 
ing of, in Central Australia, 
144-148 

in South Eastern tribes, 
1 48 if. 

function of, 150ft. 
Mexico, 133 
Mithraism, 141 f. 
Monogamy, 64, 66 
Monotheism, 208 ft. 
Mousterian interments, S3 ft. 
Mura-mura, 103 f., 189 f., 200, 

206 
Mythology, 165 ft. 
Myths, distribution of, 181 ft. 

Naming ceremonies, 15ft. 
Neolithic interments, 84 f. 
Ngia vgia»ipc relation, 60 
Nurtunga, 34 f., 168 

Orientation, 86 

Palaeolithic interments, 83 ft. 

cave-paintings, 92 
Parker, Mrs. Langloh, 102 ft. 

Placenta ceremonies, 14 f. 
Polyandry, 64 
Polygyny, 05 



INDEX 



243 



Prayers to All-Fathers, 192 f. 
Priesthood; 158 ff. 



Rain-making ceremonies, 99 ff. 
Reinach, Solomon, 92, 138 
Re-incarnation, 79 f. 
Religion, 2 f. 

definition of, xiif., 223 f. 

evolution of, 226, 232, 237 
Revelation, primitive,207,235 f. 

progressive, 115, 235 f. 
Rite de passage, 55, 219, 232, 

234 
Rites, Oral, 174, 215 f. 

private and public, 61, 238 
Ritual, 2, 219 ff., 218 
Ritual and Myth, 166, 169, 

184, 207 
Rivers, Dr. W. H. R., 51, 181 



Sacred The, 224 f. 
Sacrifice Gift theory, 116 
natural institution, 113 f. 
origin of, 115 f . 
totemic theory, 117 
Schmidt, Fr. W., 201 f. 
Secret Societies, 29 f., 234 
Sexes, the relation of 52 ff ., 

62 
Smith, Professor Eliot, 181 ff. 
Smith, Professor W. Robertson, 
88, 117, 121, 140, 166, 220, 
235 



Social organization, 50 ff . 

Kariera, 51 

Urabunna, 50 
Spencer and Gillen, 2 7, 79, 122, 

166, 197 
Spencer, Herbert, 116, 189, 221 
Strehlow, 126, 131, 197 
Subincision, 29, 170 

Tabus, Birth, 7 ff. 

death, 71 

war, 108 ff. 

priestly, 159 ff. 
Thomas, N. W., 203 
Totemism, 93 ff., 117 ff. 
Totems, Origin of, 167 
Tylor, Sir E. B., 2, 8, 116, 166, 
195 f., 202, 221 

Umbilical cord, 14 f. 
Unthippa dance, 168 f. 
Urabunna tribe, 50, 96, 127, 
170 

Wanderings of ancestral peo- 
ple, 166 ff. 
War, 106 ff. 

ceremonies, 108 f. 
Water-totems, 99 ff., 1 01 
Wcstermarck, 65 f. 



Yahweh, 71, 1 13 f. 
213 

Zufii paintings, 93 



206, 208- 



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